Posted in mental health, mindset, vulnerability

Poking around in people’s brains

Asking questions from a place of curiosity (as opposed to from a place of judgement) isn’t invasive.

How can we ever get to know people and grow relationships if we can’t ask questions?

If you’re a safe person to me, I am reasonably sure there aren’t any questions you can’t ask. (If you’re not, that’s another story entirely.)

Poking around in people’s brains is one of my favorite past times—though it’s been missing-ish in my recent years of too much to do and not enough socializing—and I am grateful to people who don’t keep walls up to prevent it.

When in doubt, avoid questions about hot-button topics, but really, any question (or comment) can be a button-pusher for the right person. We can’t possibly know what are sensitive subjects for people, especially if we don’t know them very well. “What made you move to Arizona?” is a pretty common question around here, but if the person you’re talking to was escaping an abusive situation, that question is a lot more emotional than someone who just wanted a change. No way to know unless you ask.

We get to know people through talking to them. (Sometimes simply through spending time with them, but there are a lot of asterisks on that.)

Academically, I learned in grad school a process that probably has a formal name but basically deals with self-disclosure. In order for two people to form a positive emotional relationship (not limited to romantic relationships), mutual self-disclosure is required.

One person needs to disclose something about themselves at a level appropriate to the depth of the relationship, the disclosure needs to be met positively, and the process needs to repeat in reciprocity.

The whole process isn’t exactly a tit-for-tat, one-to-one series of interactions, but the relationship quickly becomes imbalanced if only one person is doing the disclosing, or if one’s disclosures are substantially deeper than the other’s.

So. Reveal yourself. Ask questions. Answer questions. Build connections. At the end of the day, those connections are where our fulfillment is.

Posted in mindset

When you love your job…

I have a handful of comic strips bookmarked and read them every day. One of them is Frazz. I started following him on Facebook, and it turns out he writes a paragraph or two every day with a post of his strip. I dig it.

The following is from February 7. (If you use Facebook, you can see the post here.) I thought about writing about it, but it’s really his idea, and he wrote it plenty well himself, so I’m just sharing.


I’ve worked from home going on I think 16 or 17 years now (Frazz turns 18 in April, but I can’t remember how long I worked two jobs in the beginning), and the jury is still out as to whether working from home is a net asset or a net liability. It’s a mix. The commute is awfully handy. But sometimes it’s too handy. When you work from home, after all, you’re never home from work.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter, because I can always fall back on the adage that when you love your job, you never have to work. Which I assure you is also a crock. This job is a ton of work. But I never minded working. I just never liked working on stuff that I hated, or was bored by, or thought was pointless or ran against generally being a good person. And I don’t have to do any of that. So I’ll work as hard as I have to from wherever I get to, and it’s a pretty good deal. Even if I’m never home from work.


Posted in mindset, motivation

Finish strong

We had another track meet yesterday.

A lot of places were traded in the last 10 feet. (Not always 1st/2nd.)

Most kids ran hard all the way through.

But a fair number of kids pulled up before the finish line. Missed out on a last-minute take or were taken just before the line.

As anyone who has watched a game with me can attest, this is one of my biggest pet peeves with baseball. So many guys don’t run all the way through the bag.

But I got to thinking (of course) that it’s a metaphor for so many other things. How many projects have I started and not finished? Or finished half-assed?

Perhaps I need to limit my projects to those that I can finish (in terms of time, other resources, and interest). Commit to those I start.

Run all the way through. Literally and as metaphor.

Posted in differences, know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Birth lottery

The following popped up in my Facebook memories:

The crap this morning reminded me that while I am privileged enough to choose not to be here next year…or even just not to be in this neighborhood in the evenings and on the weekends…my kids here don’t have that choice. I didn’t earn this life. It was given to me and I didn’t squander it, combined with a whole host of dumb luck (see last week’s post re: finances and cancer for one of countless examples).

I wrote this during my last year teaching in south central Phoenix at a K-8 school in a low-income, high-crime neighborhood.

A few of my junior high kids had been caught dealing and using drugs on campus. Kids who did well for me. Kids whose names I wouldn’t have expected on that list. I was heartbroken and was reminded that their reality and my reality were so different.

That I didn’t attend a school like that had nothing to do with me. That I didn’t grow up in a neighborhood like that had nothing to do with me. That I’ve never had to live in a neighborhood like that has some to do with me and some not.

The point is—and I said it in the quoted portion—I didn’t earn my life. I was handed my life and I didn’t squander it.

(Other things in my life, including good mental health, pro-social interpersonal skills, etc., I worked my butt off and earned.)

Certainly there are some people who are handed a life like mine or better and squander it, most likely because they didn’t work their butts off to earn the other parts. (Societally, we don’t really talk about and definitely don’t deal with the other parts.)

But the majority of people in dire financial positions aren’t there because of bad life choices. They’re doing what they can with what they have. Sometimes, what is innate in a person is enough to help them get out of that type of situation, but we can’t blame everyone else’s failure to do so on the stars aligning for those few.

We judge them, I believe, for one of two reasons.

One is that many of us are not many paychecks away from being in dire straits ourselves. We judge to shield ourselves from that reality, to make it seem like a character flaw in them that we don’t have.

The other is that we need to believe that we did this ourselves. Because it doesn’t feel good to acknowledge that we have basic needs met that others don’t through no fault of our own. Again, we judge to make it seem like a character flaw in them that we don’t have.

But it’s not our fault that they don’t have what we do, necessarily. No need to feel guilty. Use your privilege to help. Do a little bit of volunteering. Donate to places that are reputable. (Donate money or items that are useful, not just what makes you feel good.) Speak up on behalf of those who don’t have a voice, or whose voices are ignored. Vote for people who support programs that help those among us who need it the most. Give the guy on the corner a couple of bucks without sizing up what he’s going to spend it on.

My reference to finances and cancer in the quote above?

If I’d been diagnosed 10 months earlier, I wouldn’t have had any health insurance. If I’d been diagnosed two years later, I would have paid a lot more out of pocket. If I was diagnosed now, I’d pay at least 10x what I paid then. That, my friends, is sheer dumb luck … if you can call a cancer diagnosis lucky.


Posted in exercise, mindset

You’re a runner if…

You run.

It doesn’t matter if you run fast or not.

(It doesn’t matter how you define “fast.”)

It doesn’t matter if you run short distances, long distances, or crazy long distances.

It doesn’t matter what your body shape is.

We sometimes have trouble giving ourselves a label when we feel like we’re “less than” in the crowd of people Doing The Thing.

But there are always going to be people running faster, running farther. So what?

I’m a runner. I run between one and three days most weeks.

I’m not a distance runner. My runs around the neighborhood are between two and three miles. I do 5Ks and 10Ks. I confirmed—twice—that half marathons are too long.

I’m not a fast runner. When I’m very consistent with my running, I run between 10:30 and 11-minute miles. Sometimes the weather changes that a bit. (Running in 105 or 110 degrees definitely drains the battery a bit.) I’ve done two sub-30-minute 5Ks, but I trained and have only done that with speed-specific training.

But I’m still a runner.

If you run, so are you.

Using bits that have been thrown around quite a bit:

No matter how slow you go, you’re lapping everyone on the couch.


A 15-minute-mile is just as long as a 6-minute-mile.

You want to do it? Get out there and do it. At your pace.


Posted in mindset, physical health

G.I. Joe

I don’t remember the conversation at all, but I do remember at one point in college telling a vegetarian friend of mine that I wasn’t into “all that healthy shit.”

Times have changed.

For me at that point, there was no draw to the healthy stuff. It wasn’t a defense mechanism—at least not one that I was aware of or can identify retrospectively—it just had no importance. There was no consequence to being unhealthy because I was 20, had always eaten like this, had nearly always been somewhat overweight, and it didn’t matter. No, I couldn’t run and wasn’t very flexible and on and on, but unless there was a call for those skills—and there wasn’t—it didn’t matter.

So not having connected consequences (short- or long-term) is one reason for the indifference.

Feeling powerless is another.

If a person has a strong external locus of control—they believe that things happen to them and there’s not much or anything they can do about it—then they’re not going to believe that they have responsibility for their health, and their reaction to an offer of information about health habits is most likely indifference.

The other underlying reason for a reaction like that would be for defense. A person knows on some level that what they’re doing is causing a result that they don’t like, but they have a roadblock—known or unknown—and aren’t fixing it. Their response is in defense of themselves.

Defense also comes into play in cases of insecurity. Sometimes insecure people latch on to every person or idea that comes through. But sometimes, they lash out at every person or idea that comes through. All ideas or plans are stupid or bad or dismissed on some detail or other.

This is at least part of why G.I. Joe was negligent. Maybe knowing is half the battle, but the other half—the doing—is much more difficult. Most somewhat-educated people know enough about health and wellness to keep themselves relatively fit. Doesn’t matter. In my classes and mentoring, teaching people what to do is not challenging. People following through? That’s the challenging part.

Posted in mindset, motivation, physical health, tips

Pants for weight maintenance

I’ve talked to so many people who have lost weight (intentionally) and kept their now-too-big pants “just in case.”

If keeping the weight off is a priority, get rid of the pants (or get them tailored to fit). By keeping the pants, you’re giving yourself permission to gain the weight back.

(The exception would be pregnancy-related clothes.)

Likewise, if you want to stop gaining weight, stop buying bigger pants.

In both cases, when what you have starts to get snug, that’s a heads up that you need to get your habits back in check. If your habits have legitimately been in check, then it’s time to see a doctor.

No, they didn’t shrink in the wash.

Elastic-waisted pants will not help you with this. Which is not to say that there’s no place for them—they’re comfy and wonderful!—but pants that hold you accountable need to stay in the regular rotation.

A free tool, right there in your closet (or dresser). Use it!

Posted in mindset

On health and suicide

Many people believe that suicide is wrong. (Fortunately, the grey area on that is growing…but that’s not the point of today’s post.)

Many religions profess that killing—oneself or others—is wrong.

So here’s my question: why does the timeline matter?

I don’t hear people speaking out against American health habits as a pro-life argument.

But if you consistently eat a lousy diet—or a good diet but way too much of it—you’re killing yourself.

If you don’t exercise at all—whether that’s exercise outright or just have active days—you’re killing yourself.

Smoking and excessive drinking are slow suicide.

Why is it socially (or religiously) acceptable to kill yourself slowly but not quickly?

Posted in know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness

On buying…again

One last one (for now) on spending money and having stuff. (Budgets and smarter spending came before.)

It’s worth it to spend more money for good quality that will last longer, though it’s not always easy to tell what is better quality and what just costs more. And borrow or rent instead of buying things you’re not going to use often or more than once.

It’s worth it to spend extra now to save in the long run.

It’s worth it not to spend money on cheap crap with the intention of buying it, using it once, and throwing it away.

When we prioritize long-term use and savings over short-term considerations, the benefits are more than just saving money long-term.

We save time: the time it takes to shop for and buy a replacement. Depending on what is being replaced, we might save time on breaking down the old one (think: cheap furniture) and setting up the new.

We save the earth: we use less stuff (which means less resources used in their creation). We create less trash. “Less” also to all of the transportation required in all of the steps prior to and including acquisition and later, trash.

We save space: we don’t have a bunch of cheap (maybe broken) stuff lurking around the house.

We vote with our dollars: money is the loudest voice in capitalist America. When you buy more items that are good quality, you add your voice to the growing number of people saying “I want products that last.” The more of us there are, the more availability of these products grows.

Examples of these purchases might be:

  • reusable water bottles (instead of disposable)
  • reusable lunch boxes (instead of bags)
  • reusable shopping bags (little to no financial gain but significant gain on storage and environment)
  • reusable kitchenware (tablecloths, napkins, placemats, dishes, glasses, silverware, baking trays)
  • rechargeable batteries
  • good quality furniture
  • good quality sheets and towels
  • good quality clothes and shoes
  • rent tools
  • use the library for books and movies
  • buy second-hand (wood furniture, bikes, tools, books, clothes, certain sports equipment)

That’s just off the top of my head. There are endless others.



Posted in know better do better, mindset, thoughtfulness

On spending money better

While writing yesterday’s post, I started on a tangent about the process of accumulating stuff and decided to develop it into its own post.

Even as a person who is not big on shopping and has done multiple purges of stuff over the last bunch of years, I still have too much stuff. Some of it has been gifted to me (hooray!), and some of it is hand-me-downs (hooray!), but most of it I spent money on.

And now I’m getting rid of it. Surely, there are things I’d rather spend money on. Taking classes or lessons, taking trips, save it up to buy a good camera.

Seriously: if someone said, “Fill up this little dumpster with stuff from your house (yours only! none from The Climbing Daddy or The Kid) and if you can fill it, I’ll give you a high-quality camera with a couple of accessories that you’ll want to start learning to take good photos,” I’d fill it! (Hmmmm… depending on the size of the dumpster.) Which means that I’ve spent a bunch of money on stuff that I could have spent on something better.

Now … some of that stuff was useful when I bought it and just isn’t being used any more. But some of it isn’t.

In the given fantasy above, I’d finally get rid of clothes that really need to go and for whatever reason, I’m not getting rid of them. Because the external push would be strong enough. (I’ve purged many clothes—not sure why I’m stuck on some of the ones that are left.)

I’d bet—though I haven’t conferred with him—that The Climbing Daddy would take that exchange as well, though I’m not sure what would be an enticing enough trade for him to do it.

I’d bet that The Kid would, too. He couldn’t fill a dumpster—he doesn’t have that much stuff in total—but I bet he’d get rid of a lot of stuff for a LEGO kit expensive enough that he doesn’t get it even for his birthday. (He doesn’t have tons and tons of toys, but he rarely plays with anything except LEGO.)

I bet either of them would trade excess stuff for a trip, depending on where it was to.

All I’m saying is: if I didn’t spend $20 here and $35 there and $10 on the other, that adds up and I could buy one thing or experience that I’d rather have than that collection.

Jeeze, even mundane things would be better than some of the clutter. Windows. A mattress. Random scattered house renovation daydreams.

All that said … I still have a wish list. I got things for Christmas that I’m happy to have. We just ran out of Home Depot and Lowes gift cards from our wedding and I’m sad that we’ll have to spend money to make acquisitions there.

It’s not a matter of not wanting but of being mindful with acquisition, especially of the little stuff. Because there’s a lot of it. And it doesn’t cost a lot. And it piles up and takes space and time (to deal with in cleaning and organizing) and ultimately takes money away from places I’d rather it go.

My current plan (that is hit or miss with implementation) is one in, one out. So, for example, I bought a new skirt. One skirt or dress goes in the donation box.

We also have a box all the time that is the donation box, so any little thing that’s ready to be outgoing but not trash or sell can be tossed into the box. It helps things to go.