Jul 24, 2013

The How of Happiness

Ok, here is what I came up with:

Cultivate optimism - find the silver lining in every dark cloud. Ask, "What's great about this?" 

Set aside time every week to just be with the people who are important to you in our life. Like the missus and bambinos. 

Connect to gratitude - write down what you're grateful for. It's a lot. You're blessed.

What are your three?

Jul 23, 2013

Are you sprinting east to see a sunset?

Can you handle my shortest post ever?!?!?!  I don't know if I can.  Can you handle two posts in two days?!?!?!?!  It's out of CONTROL.  I'm on FIRE!

What do we all really want out of life?  You might say fulfillment.  Growth.  Spiritual enlightenment.  A suitcase full of gangster cash.  So many answers, so little time.

But don't we all have at least one desire in common?  Happiness.  Who wants to be a sad sack, a human puddle, the flesh-and-blood equivalent of a scoop of ice cream tumbling out of its cone onto a pile of sawdust?  Nobody.

"I know I want to be happy, but I just don't know how," whined the big whiner inside all of us.  Here's an experiment.  Listen to this song four or five times in a row:

The How of Happiness Song

Put it on your touchy-touch phone device, set phasers on repeat, and jam out.  Stand up, let your hips move to the groove, make that goofy face that you always make on the dance floor when you know the club is too dark for other people to really see you making that goofy face.  You know the face I'm talking about, the one that says, "You all know I'm smoothe."

And then listen.  Let the words in.  It's strategy on a platter.  And we all need a good strategy.  As one of my mentors (that Robbins guy again) says, "If you're running east looking for a sunset, you're in trouble!"

After your fourth or fifth time listening to the song, run and get a pen and paper.  Run!  Write down three ideas that you got from the song that you can easily include in your daily activities.  Listen to the song a couple more times if you need to - don't forget to get groovy.

Post your list in as many places as you can so you see it often.

Then take action!  That's it: desire + strategy + action.  Rock it out!  Kick some heiney!

I'm doing this now.  I'll post my list soon.  Anyone else care to share theirs?

You walked on what?!

A bed of 2000 degree hot coals.  And here is a picture of my feet a few minutes post-potentially-stupid-thing-you-regret:

As you can see, my feet did not get burnt off into bloody cauterized stumps.  There they are, in all their glory, the same as they were before the fire-walk, if a little bit red from being slightly roasted. Any injuries? Well, the bottoms of my feet, the part touching the 2000 degree bed of hot coals that I walked over, felt sunburned after walking over the bed of 2000 degree hot coals.  Which I walked over this past Thursday night, in case you were wondering.

But Friday morning, most of the sunburned feeling was gone except for a small spot on my left footsie.  That was a nice surprise.

The other nice surprise I woke up to Friday morning was being able to say I did that fire walk.  And it's not even entirely about walking across the bed of hot coals.  That's really only the last few seconds of a process that extended over the course of many hours.

What was that process?  It was a multi-hour process of preparation that Tony Robbins, yes the guy from the '80's infomercials, led 4,500 of my closest friends through to show us that it is our free will, employed in a productive direction consistently over time, that allows us to break through our fears and achieve what we were meant to achieve.

Doesn't this sound so simple?  Isn't this just so obvious?  "What have you done, oh great and powerful Weissology," some of you might think.  "You spend a bunch of dough to get pumped up in a crowd full of kool-aid guzzlers, only to learn what you have known all your life?!  That you have free will and you need to exercise it to move ahead in life?!?!"

I'll answer via a badly chosen metaphor, couched in a bit of snooty meaningless elitism:

All of you, of course, will remember when I stopped watching the Oscars.  It was in 1999, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) failed to nominate Jeff Bridges for the award of best actor for his revolutionary performance as Jeffrey Lebowski in the Cohen brothers' classic film The Big Lebowski.  After that, for me, both the art and science were settled.  There could be no legitimacy in an organization that could not see what was right before its very eyes: that Jeff Bridges had changed the art of film acting forever with that performance.

I tell you this by way of introduction to the fact that, had it not been for Amanda, Chris, and Christophe, I would still be watching the Oscars today, a fish in a tiny bowl, overjoyed to be swimming to and fro in the soaked ignorance of my own limitations.

Amanda, Chris, and Christophe, friends in Los Angeles where I lived at that time, invited me over to watch The Big Lebowski, which had been released on video.  I saw it in the theaters, I told them, and I did not particularly like it.  They insisted, explaining the Rule of Cohen Brothers Films to me, a rule the existence of which I had theretofore been soakingly ignorant.

See, it goes like this.  The Cohen Brothers are geniuses.  But if you watch one of their films only once, you risk disliking or only mildly liking it.  It's on the second viewing that the true essence of the film reveals itself.

Having no alternative social plans, I accepted, joined them for the screening, and from that moment on understood why it's funny when my sister-in-law says, "I'm calmer than you," and why the AMPAS is a totally bogus organization comprised of echo-chamber back slappers who wouldn't know a break-through acting performance if it cut off one of their toes.

Fast-forward to 2013.  We can talk all day long about how important our free will is, how critical our life decisions are, how essential it is to harness the power of our inner motivation.  But sometimes it takes a real experience to shock us into the realization that the way we have been experiencing life was fish-bowl sized.

That's what the firewalk was for me.  In the moments after walking across that bed of hot coals, I was excited and proud of myself.  In the days following, including today, I am more pensive.  The real question is, "What must I achieve in life?"

And how must I deploy my free will day by day in order to prepare for the last few seconds of the process, the briefest yet flashiest part, the very end?

Jul 18, 2013

I am not turning into J.D. Salinger

And what I mean by that is that I'm not avoiding my throngs of thirsty fans, who have been deprived these many months of my greatness, by holing myself up in some compound in suburbia, only answering the door for the guy from the Amazon.com delivery service when he shows up with my Prime subscription monthly installment of two-ply bathroom tissue.  Which is I'm sure what Salinger does, assuming he's still alive.

My point is that I'm too lazy to Google whether or not Salinger has died, so you can bet I'm not posting because I'm, you guessed it, holed up in some compound...

Is lazy just another word for afraid of something?  I don't know, but in the spirit of self-knowledge with which this blogging experiment was initiated, I aim to find out, starting tomorrow afternoon at this event, which I still can't believe I actually signed up for:  http://bit.ly/13kwas8

Those of you who are not completely disappointed by my absence these many months might check in periodically over the next couple of days here: @weissology

I think that's a twitter thingy-majiggy.  I'll be posting (tweeting?) pictures of my feet before and after the firewalk.  That's FIREWALK.  Walking on a bed of red-hot coals.  Please don't tell my mother about this.  Or my father.  Or my salsa teacher.

I close this re-emergence from my suburban compound, surrounded by two-ply quilted comfort, with a promise to post more often.  I have a backlog of things to share.  For the next four days, I'll be backlogging that backlog.  And then the posting shall re-commence.  Huzzah!

Jan 14, 2013

Coming Up For Air

I almost can’t believe it’s been two months since my last post.  Almost.  But between the last post and these few words at midnight, before winding the mind down and after a decent bit of yoga, much has occurred.  Two months have passed in the blink of an eye, and during that time I completely recalibrated my priorities.

The dedicated throngs of Weissology faithful from Alaska all the way to Indonesia will dutifully recall that it was only just in the middle of last summer when I previously recalibrated my priorities as a result of the Text Message of Doom.

That was then; this is now.  That was me; this is Mrs. Weissology.

Three weeks after my previous post of 11/11/12, the better half went in for some surgery.  Fear mixed with brain-freezing fatigue.  Necessary preventive procedure.  Utterly life-changing.  That's a different blog.  I'm not sure I've fully wrapped my mind around that, in part because there simply hasn't been time.

She was only in the hospital for 24 hours, but recovery takes time, and while the lynchpin regained her strength over many weeks, four kids needed to be fed, dressed, shunted to and fro, diapered, snuggled, nose-wiped, finger-wagged, eye-rolled, laughed with, high-fived, read-to, forehead-kissed, group-hugged, tucked-in, and generally kept afloat.  Dishes needed washing and counters sprayed and wiped.  Floors needed sweeping and loads of laundry processed.  Bills needed paying and my regular day-job needed box-checking.

While my weight does not, as yet, indicate that it is so, I am but one man.  Okay, to be fair, my weight indicates currently that I am either one rather large man or two kind of scrawny ones, whereas previously it was more like one train wreck or two welterweights.  So that’s progress by any definition.

Nevertheless, I am only me.  And in the words of William Shakespeare, if you soak me, do I not prune?  The rhetorical answer to that most salient rhetorical question is, of course, no, I do not not prune, especially before the new dish-washing gloves arrived from Amazon.com.  But you catch my drift.

Since Mrs. W’s surgery, she has been my number one priority.  The children second.  The house third.  Everything else kind of gets thrown together in the crock-pot for a distant fourth.  I haven’t slept much.  And that’s taking into account the heroic contributions of both blood relatives and family-from-another-mother, so to speak, but for whom I’d be crouched on a sidewalk somewhere, wearing a tutu and drooling about the Voices.

There is a data point I must collect in this study of myself.  Me and my family - we are deeply loved.  Dear God, let that realization be enough of a prayer that I should be worth the trouble and strong enough to pay it all forward.

Beyond the sleep deprivation, I haven’t checked my blood sugar much, I haven’t exercised much, and I certainly haven’t written much.  What I can tell you is that, thank God, Mrs. W is doing great.  Making excellent progress.

I can also tell you that for the first time perhaps in all of my life, living those priorities in the absolute correct order felt liberating.  There is just something liberating in the knowledge that the activity of the moment is exactly the activity one was built for tackling in that moment.  Whether it’s helping someone up a flight of stairs post-operation; cleaning the kitchen at midnight; wiping the snot; kissing the forehead; reading Harry Potter with a cheeseball English accent.

In the study of myself, that is another point of data that I’d like to collect.  When push comes to shove, I am capable of behaving as if my family is the most important thing in my life, beyond merely saying so.

I bid the Weissology universe a good night.  I’m sweaty from the yoga, and now I must get some rest.  For tomorrow I must wake up a bit earlier than usual to check my blood sugar and fire up the oatmeal.  The good kind; the kind that warms the belly and evens out the glucose.

Nov 11, 2012

Emotions: They Can All Just Go To Heck

Eating through stress doesn’t make the stress go away.  Does this surprise some of you faithful readers? You're thinking, "But Dan, when I inhale six dozen donuts through a straw, all of my problems just magically disappear! What's your malfunction?!"

Yes, well. My malfunction is that right now what I really want to do is eat a bag of oil-free, baked tortilla chips dipped in oil-free, sugar-free salsa. Both of those items are on my official list of approved foods that are not evil. And I know that snorting them will magically erase the fact that life cost me an extra $580.83 (car repair, huge electric bill) today, that my daughter is overwhelmed with school and that it effects me deeply on an emotional level, and that I may not actually have options in every little nook and cranny of the English muffin that is life.

Won't binge eating magically erase all that? "No!" you say. "Dammit!" I reply.

Let's begin at the beginning, shall we?

This morning I took my car in for an oil change.  The little sticker in the upper-left corner of my windshield said I was about 7,000 miles late for this automotive colonic, which means it’s been around 10,000 miles since my last oil change.  The car manufacturers say you should change your oil every 3,000 miles, but many mechanics say you can really do it at around 6,000 miles.  I figured, hey, they’re all in bed with the oil companies, so screw ‘em, I’m doing it at 10,000 miles.  And I’m lazy and neglected to make time for the oil change.  There, for those of you who weren’t paying attention, was a MOMENT OF SELF-REFLECTIVE HONESTY!  Six points.

Anyway, returning to our amazingly interesting story of Honda Accords and oil changes, I took my car to Uncle Mike (not my uncle, but the uncle of close friend Bucho) who fixes my cars.  As they say at any decent mechanic’s school, in for an oil change, out for a brake job.  And that is not to say that Uncle Mike is trying to rip me off, Heaven forfend.  Such a statement would be a heinous falsehood, not to mention absurdly foolish given how heavily armed Bucho is, but I digress from the main point, which is that what was supposed to be a $40 day if you include an oil change, became a $580.83 day if you include the oil change, front brakes, burnt out left rear braking light, low fluids, and obscenely high electric bill.

Some of you will notice that the electric bill has nothing to do with my car.  Granted.  But it has just as much to do with my wallet as my car did on this day.  Which is to say, it was the Atkins Diet of wallet-land, in that it certainly made my wallet thinner, but made me sick in the process.  Rimshot!  Those of you Atkins supporters may feel free to send your nasty comments to support@apple.com.

Where was I?  Electric bill.  Which was overdue because I blew it off.  Why did I blow off my electric bill, you ask?  Excellent question.  Probably because I’m lazy and rationalized that the electric company could wait, others could not, and anyway the state and feds would never let them turn off my power!  BOOM!  Did you see that?!?  Another MOMENT OF SELF-REFLECTIVE HONESTY!  Six points.

Anyway, amazingly interesting story of Honda Accords, oil changes, and electric bills, evolves into amazingly interesting story of picking the kids up at school.  Number One Child, the fabulously creative and good-looking one that takes after her father, was crying and on the verge of hyperventilating when I arrived for the afternoon carpool.  Disagreement with teacher...something about having to complete the work assigned in the time allotted...something about having to stay in from recess if she doesn’t finish it...before I know what's happening, the room begins to spin, and experiments with gamma radiation from a previous career rear their ugly head, and suddenly I'm a six-hundred pound mountain of pure green muscle smashing through the walls of the Anonymous Jewish Parochial School screaming, "Hulk Smash!!"

Somehow, though, I got both of the big kids home, which must have been such an excellent surprise for Mrs. Weissology. Number One Child comes home from school bawling, Number Two Child, whom I like to think of as nuclear fusion with feet, tears into the house with his customary hyper-decibel sensitivity, and Weissology limps through the door, clothes in tatters, the obvious sign that "the other guy" has taken over and that destruction of property and emotional hang-over have resulted.

Of course, the only reasonable reaction to any of this is to eat, right? I could easily find chips and salsa that are on my list of approved plant-strong foods.  Isn’t that better than calming the storm with what I used to calm the storm with?  Eleven weeks ago I would have pounded a stack of grilled cheese sandwiches, or Ben & Jerry’s by the pint.

Which, by the way, is how you get diabetes and heart disease.  I know from experience on the diabetes part, and can speculate on the heart disease part given my genetic heritage, but wouldn’t really know directly because, all together now, I’m lazy and I never go to the doctor anyway!  BOOM!  Six more points!  It’s a big day for self-reflective honesty here at the Weissology Blog.  Oh yeah, and I haven’t been to the dentist in over seven years.  And I never really understood the Beatles.  I’ll stop now.

But the point is not at all Ben & Jerry's or grilled cheese sandwiches.  The point for me is that I'm replaying that familiar pattern.  Success!  Success!  Success!  Sabotage!  Demoralization!  Abandonment of hope!  More sabotage!  More demoralization!  Downward spiral!

In the past, the downward spiral would end in being fat and miserable.  Now I'm older.  Damage has been done.  The downward spiral could dig a grave this time.  I need tools to deal with a $580.83 day.  With my innate ability to be a lightening rod for other people's emotions.  And with all of those other things, which I can't bring myself to write about yet, which are even more difficult and complicated.  Life is happening, cherished friends.  It's not about to get simpler.

I will never be the guy who doesn’t feel the emotions.  God help me to become the guy who uses tools other than food to process and deal with the emotions.  I don’t know what those tools are.  Perhaps I should find out, he said to himself, out loud, in as snarky a tone as he could possibly muster.

Anyway, as I was writing this I ate half a bag of oil-free, baked tortilla chips and half a jar of oil-free, sugar-free salsa.  Now I’m going to go obsess about why, mysteriously, my weight loss has plateaued.

Oct 26, 2012

My Journey To Plant Strong, Part 1: A Less-Than-Optimally-Brief Personal History

April 17th, 1973.  A critical date in American, nay, Global History.  It was on that day that Federal Express officially commenced their industry-defining overnight shipping services.  It was also on that day, in Cleveland, Ohio, that my parents decided to celebrate this free-market liberation from U.S. Postal Service domination by bringing me into the world via Caesarean section.  Little did they know that, almost prophetically, I would grow to become both an impatient grump who wants things delivered when I demand them and an epicure who loves absurdly rich and fatty salad dressings, all the more so if they are anchovy-based.  These two less-than-savory (get it?  SAVORY?!) character traits, if they can both be considered such, have conspired over the years to strap me, like so much excess-weight luggage, to the brakeless mini-van roof of life, careening headlong down the Lombard Street of weight fluctuation.  Was that the worst embedded-metaphor sentence in history...or was it the best?

Throughout what I would consider a fairly run-of-the-mill upbringing, I can remember that I was always magnetized to food, and always somewhat uncomfortable in my own skin.  Like many of the more stylish, aristocratic babies of the early ‘70s, I was born fat.  Being fat did not bother me as a pre-toddler. Conversely, if my weight throughout life is any indication, I was hell-bent to stay that way through preadolescence and well on into post-pre-adulthood.

Though for the life of me I can’t imagine why, this disturbed by parents.  Perhaps they thought later on in life I’d develop debilitating health problems?  Is that why they (and by ‘they’ I mean my mother, at which point the author received a bitter phone call from his mother about how he is an ingrate, after all she suffered to raise him in an increasingly insane world, and how dare he write anything about her even implicitly critical) brought me to a nutritionist when I was, oh, maybe ten years old?  A nutritionist who attempted to teach me about healthy eating by having me play with rubber facsimiles of fried chicken (“bad" rubber food) and broccoli ("good" rubber food, I presume)?

And later to a therapist who would either brainwash me (in a good way, of course) or teach me how to brainwash myself into eating less, exercising more, and growing leaner as I grew taller (or was it taller as I grew leaner?) by way of endless repetition of affirmations (e.g., “I am a naturally thin person!)?  All I remember about this therapist, besides the homework assignments, is how hot she was.  If I close my eyes and explore the vault, I recall her looking like one of those women from the “Addicted To Love” video.  Except happy.  I didn't do a single thing she asked me to do to help myself, and therefore did not come to believe that I was a naturally thin person and could hence afford myself psychic permission to eat like one. But I had no problem visiting her at her office.  Let’s ice down some of those memories, shall we?

Unwittingly, these were the same parents who, dedicated to providing me with every single opportunity and resource in life, sent me to a premiere high school, and then to a premiere college, where all of the food was served buffet style.  This was not advertised in the promotional brochures.  So imagine my pleasant surprise upon arrival at the dining hall to learn that only the starting time of one's next class placed a practical limit on the number of times one could return to the beginning of the buffet line.  One of the most vivid memories I have of college is a plate filled with double-burgers drenched in nacho cheese sauce (this was several years before I started keeping kosher).  That plate always got refilled.  In a warped way lemmings are lucky.  Because they can’t go back to the top of the cliff.

Is it shocking that my weight has yo-yo’ed for as long as I can remember, my top weight steadily increasing with every failure?  Unlike many whose blogs I've read and whose stories I’ve heard, I have not tried every single diet solution known to man.  I have also never taken a diet drug.  I once (literally, one time) took a body-building supplement at a time when I was lifting weights a lot, but what I suspect was a combination of caffeine and a palette of other stimulants freaked me out so intensely that I had the bottle of pills arrested for assault and battery.

I bought weight-loss pills at my local drug store once, when I was 15, but can thankfully acknowledge that, having gone another year without losing all the weight I wanted to lose before shipping off to summer camp, where I would have to run the emotional gauntlet yet again for four weeks straight in a bathing suit, I narrowly avoided becoming a speed addict when I flushed them down a camp toilet.  How any pharmacy could look itself in the mirror after selling Crank Lite over the counter to a 15-year-old boy is beyond me.  But sell the amphetamine-laced diet pills they did, and again let us take a moment to thank God that He planted in my body-conscious and girl-crazed teen-aged brain the seed of fear that I’d become a toothless, bloody-eyed drooler, albeit a thin one, if I went ahead with my plan to lose weight via psychostimulants.  Thank you, God.  Oh, thank you.  And once again for good measure, thank you Lord.

So pills were never part of my obsession, but several of the more popular weight loss programs were.  Not far down the road from that vaunted Chicago-area institution of higher learning known as Where Weissology Went To College, there was a Jenny Craig...outlet.  Store?  Training center?  What does one call the real estate where Jenny hawks her wares and services?  Jenny Craig...what can one say about Jenny Craig?  God bless my parents for, among other things, paying for all those boxes of food.  Looking back on it now, it doesn’t strike me as so healthy to train people to eat only out of a cardboard box, but maybe they don’t do it that way any more.

Anyway, I walked into Jenny Craig in Skokie, Illinois in 1994 because I was 80 pounds overweight.  I kept walking in because my Jenny Craig coach was a delicately beautiful faux blond whose black roots were somehow sexy underneath all that bleach-yellow.  Believe me when I tell you, I’m not trying to work hot chicks into my personal history.  It’s just the way things unfolded, organically.  I promise.  I am not the Woody Allen of Richard Simmons stories.  After all, both my childhood therapist and Jenny Craig handler were older than me. Rimshot!

And now, back to our regularly scheduled blog post.  I lost a lot of weight on the Jenny Craig program.  I dutifully (obsessively?) box-cut and microwaved my way to something like a 60 pound reduction.  After which time I assumed I was cured, and dutifully stopped visiting my lovely coach at the JC compound down the road from school.

I’m not exactly sure when I gained all my weight back and then some, but it didn’t take long.  Then I moved to Los Angeles, California which, anyone can imagine, is the single best place in the world to be fat and self-conscious.  When you cross the border into California for the first time, you get your passport stamped and you get a lifetime membership to the 12-step program of your choice.  Mine was Compulsive Eaters Anonymous (CEA).  As they say in the 12-step rooms, “it works if you work it.”  It worked when I worked it.  It stopped working when I stopped working it.  I vacillated between working it and not working it several times over the span of my five-or-so years in L.A., and then moved to Israel to study in seminary in Jerusalem.  In Israel it didn’t even take me a full year to stop working the CEA program completely.

You know what the best thing about living in Israel is? The spiritual high one gets from being immersed in one’s cultural heritage round-the-clock. You know what the second best thing is? The Yemenite restaurant right next door to the artisan bakery, both right smack in the middle of my bike ride to seminary each day. What more could my arteries want than a sandwich consisting of deep-fried falafel balls wrapped in pan-fried bread, slathered with sesame paste and olive-oil-drenched chick-pea hummus? How about the same thing again on the way home? Could the arteries also want that? I could never say for sure what my arteries really wanted, but I was willing to test all hypotheses, as long as it involved some form of frying.

Quick quiz:  What’s the most responsible and forward-thinking action a guy could take approaching the birth of his first child in order to ensure many decades of healthfulness in order to guide the child for as long as possible along the path of life?  If your answer is to mentally map every vending machine within a ten minute walk of the maternity ward, then you’ll have stumbled upon my approach to my wife’s labor with our older daughter, our very first child, born in Jerusalem in the summer of 2004. Do you know how they say Kit-Kat in Hebrew? Keet-Ket. Say it with me, “While you have more false contractions and fail to dilate further, I’m going to spend 5 shekel on another Keet-Ket.”

If it weren’t for the fact that the bike ride home from seminary was uphill, we’d have had to rent a separate apartment for my gut.

Three years in Israel. Return to America, summer of 2005, to start business school. Back to the 12-step programs. It worked as long as I worked it. Then I stopped working it. Again.

Second child, first boy, born in 2006. Second year of business school. Graduation. Consulting job. Third kid, second boy, in 2010. Stress. Responsibility. Sleepless nights. Global travel for work. Eating like crap, feeling like crap. Garbage in, garbage out.

Acid-reflux. Sleep apnea (undiagnosed). Glorious snoring, which Mrs. Weissology loves so much! Aches. Pains. Festering disease. And no more bike rides to push back on the abuse my body was taking.

What would be the thing to shepherd's-hook me off the Bizarro version of Disneyland’s “It’s a Small World” ride that I was on? In Part 2 of this post, I’ll let you in on how I got plant strong. And then got plant weak. And then got plant strong. Then plant weak again one more time. Sound familiar? You'll also learn how I met the famous guys in white lab coats and the Healthy Girl, and how I introduced my boot to the heiney of processed foods and animal proteins.

So stay tuned, and share your thoughts. Can you relate to the self-perpetuating cycle of failure? I'm looking forward to hearing from you.