Posted in connections, mindset, motivation, physical health, thoughtfulness, tips

A letter to my future self

June 15, 2000

Dear 35-year-old Heat,

I’ve finally admitted to myself something that I’ve been denying or avoiding for a long time: I’m fat, and I’m rapidly getting fatter. I’m 70 pounds heavier than I was when I graduated high school just 7 years ago.

I could blame it on genetics, Heat. Mom is fat. Dad is fat. Their siblings and parents are/were all fat. 

But blaming it on genetics only allows me to continue to live in denial. They were all slender in their youths—they just didn’t (and still don’t) take care of themselves. I’m strong enough that I can look at this face-to-face and own it.

It’s my fault I’m fat.

Heat, I decided today that I’m going to eat less ice cream. I hope this sounds ridiculous to you, but I’m going to limit myself to one serving every day. It’s going to be hard. I’m not even worried yet about how much is in one serving. But my eating habits are out of control, and this seems like a good place to start.

I’m doing this for you, Heat. In the here and now, I just want to eat. But—thanks to the generations in front of me—I see what that does. I don’t want that to be my story, too, but the only way to stop it is to start to change now. It doesn’t happen overnight.

I know you’ll appreciate this change. I hope that you’ll pay it forward to 45-year-old Heat.

Sincerely,

25-year-old Heat

You’re looking at a dessert menu, deciding whether or not to order dessert. Do you defer to yourself right now, someone you know, someone who is here right now? Or do you honor yourself in the future, someone who is a stranger, someone who’s not sitting at the table with you?

As it turns out, it’s easy to ignore our future selves because they’re strangers. And because they’re not here right now.

A few little studies have popped up—all in the realm of personal finance, but I believe they still apply.

What the studies found was that people who felt more connected to their future selves were more likely to make decisions that benefitted their future selves. People who felt disconnected from their future were more likely to give in to immediate desires.

You can read about those here and here, or watch a great TED talks about it here and here. (That second one is about how language affects future-oriented behavior. I thought it was fascinating!)

What does that have to do with health and wellness?

Everything.

What you eat has an effect on you … later.

How much you exercise, and at what intensity, and for how long, all affect you. Later.

So how can you become better-connected with your future self to help you make better decisions now?

Well, you can use the website referenced in this article (also linked above) to get a picture of yourself down the line. Or if you have a vivid imagination (or strong family resemblances), use your imagination.

Once you have a picture, either in front of you or in your mind, get to know that person a little. What do they like? What are their values? What are their struggles? What are their fears? Do you feel acquainted?

For me, it’s the struggles and fears that really motivate me now.

I’ve been through chemo, so I know what kind of toll that takes on a young, healthy body. It can only be worse on an older and/or less healthy body.

I see friends, relatives, coworkers struggle against chronic disease. I’ve seen them go through massive surgeries to try to repair themselves.

I don’t know what the life expectancy is of healthy people in my family. No one in my parents’ generation or their parents’ generation have taken care of themselves. One side of the family is littered with auto-immune disorders; the other has a solid disposition to heart disease.

My past self was ever indulgent. Fortunately, a more recent past self decided it was time to do something and did it. And most of the selves in between kept at it. (And the ones who didn’t keep at it have not done too much damage.)

I know a few people who have journals that they are going to pass onto their kids when their kids get older. They are writing down milestones, things the kids do, etc.

You could do this for your older self as well. Keep a little journal, and tell older you what you did for them today. Tell them why you did it and how it made you feel.

Connecting all of this to emotions will make the experience—and the results—more powerful.

Is the path you’re on now taking you in the direction you want to go? Is your future self at the destination you want?

Do what you can to align with Future You. You’ll be glad you did.

You’re bound to your future self. You can’t escape her. You can alter what she looks like, what she feels like, what her situation is like. What can you do to make her happy? To make YOU happy?

Are you going to try to envision your future self to instigate change? (It’s a little scary, isn’t it? All the more reason to do it!)

Posted in motivation, thoughtfulness

When you buy a house…

…know the quirks of the area.

I will never forget the diatribe of a woman I worked with years ago. We were in a training (no idea what the training was actually for) and we were debating pros and cons of putting in a light rail system in Phoenix.

Her argument was that they should spend the money on freeways instead! Her daughter bought a house in Queen Creek, and there are no freeways out there!

For those not familiar with the area, Queen Creek is south and east of Phoenix and the northwest corner of town is about five or seven miles from the nearest freeway.

But this is the thing: there were no freeways when she bought the house. If she wanted or needed to have easy freeway access, Queen Creek wasn’t a good place to buy a house.

The Tall Daddy and I looked at a house years ago where the back yard backed up to the track at a local high school.

It doesn’t matter how spectacularly amazing that house is — it’s a no. High schools are noisy (football, track, soccer, marching band, who knows what else all on that field) and traffic is terrible around starting and ending times of both the school day and large events.

The problem with these sorts of considerations is that you have to know an awful lot of stuff. Realtors are generally not helpful unless they really know an area well and will volunteer information.

Do they know that when the wind blows the right way, you’re going to smell the dairy farm that you didn’t even know was four miles away?

That said, a lot of it is on you. Access to freeways and public transportation. Proximity to schools (for better or worse), parks, your preferred retail, and whatever else you want to be near or not near.

I read a newspaper article the other day: ADOT is widening a six-mile length of freeway near here. Apparently, when the project was proposed, people said no, it’s not a good idea because I can hear the noise from the freeway and this will make it louder.

People. You bought a house next to a freeway. It’s noisy.

(Unless they owned the house before the freeway was built in 2000. That’s a completely different story. I also wonder if going from the current eight lanes to the soon-to-be 10 lanes will make much difference in the noise.)

So. Do your due diligence. Find out as much as you can. It’s a pain, especially if you find a house that you love in a neighborhood with a fatal flaw. But buyer’s remorse doesn’t make it someone else’s fault.

 

Posted in food, gifts, know better do better, thoughtfulness

Pretend it’s Thanksgiving

Every winter, there are countless holiday food drives. I’ve donated to some of them. I suspect many of you have as well.

But now is actually the time of year when they need more.

Why?

School is out. (Or it’s getting close.)

Many impoverished kids get two of their daily meals at school. Others get their only two meals at school.

With schools closed, food banks become more necessary to those communities.

I’m not sure if it’s the lack of feel-good or what that has prevented “school’s out” food drives, but I’ve never seen one.

While we’re here and talking about it… I’ve read that donating money to food banks leads to more food availability than donating food itself. The explanation I saw said that because they can buy in bulk or otherwise have cheaper-per-unit powers, giving $1 buys more food than donating a $1 can of something.

There are also issues of fit with the community, of health issues within the community, and of people just plain being jerks and donating expired food.

It’s not an opportunity to clean out your pantry.

So. If you’re a food donating kind of person, take a few bucks to your local food bank and help out your neighborhood youth. They’ll be grateful.

Posted in connections, ebb & flow, know better do better, marriage, mindset, parenting, podcasts, thoughtfulness, vulnerability

Podcast quote: problem maintenance

As I mentioned a bit ago, I have been bingeing on Where Should We Begin? by Esther Perel.

The first episode of the second season (“You Need Help to Help Her”), she’s talking with a couple who has a young adult daughter with problems. Most of the details of the episode aren’t relevant to this post, but if you have a child with any sort of mental health issue, you might gain some insight from it.

Basically, there weren’t (known) problems, and suddenly, there were big problems, and the whole family dynamic and structure changed.

At the end, Esther is summing things up, and she says this (emphasis mine):

“When mom speaks of the holistic view, the way I would define it is this. I am a family therapist. I think systemically. I think about problems in context, problems in an ecology, not just what causes them but what maintains them. How is the relationship system, how is the family organized around the problem?”

Maybe you’ve thought about this before, but I’ve never thought specifically about problem maintenance (when the problem doesn’t start as a systemic one).

I’ve been thinking about this and am starting to apply it to my closest relationships.

  • What am I doing that maintains problems? (within my level of awareness)
  • How can I change that? (within my level of control)
  • Where can I connect disconnects to make life happier for everyone who lives here? (within my levels of awareness and control)

Hopefully, in time, we can all connect in to that, but I’m starting first, and we’ll go from there.

Blew my mind.

Problem maintenance.

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

Our culture of victim-blaming and shaming

Victim-blaming is almost a national past time.

My [expensive thing] was stolen from my [car/house/desk/anywhere]. “Was it locked?”

She was raped. “What was she wearing? Was she drinking?” (I could make a giant list of victim-blaming that applies just to women.)

My purse was stolen out of a shopping cart. “What did you expect?”

Kids at lunch were making fun of my hair. “I told you not to wear it like that.”

He was just diagnosed with lung cancer. “Does he smoke?” (Tidbit: diagnoses of lung cancer in non-smokers is on the rise and has been for a few years.)

In cases where we’re judging other adults, it seems to be a simple self-protective mechanism. If I can blame what happened to you on your actions, then I don’t have to worry about that thing happening to me, because I’m smart enough not to act how you do/did.

(I believe this is also why we ignore data on common things that are carcinogenic—because then we’d have to be responsible for not using them or for our diagnosis if/when it comes, and we would rather attribute it to bad luck, random chance, or a deity.)

In cases where we’re judging children, it’s either because they’re experiencing something painful that we did (or still do) and instead of dealing with that pain that brings up for us, we wall up and blame them. Or we’re judging their parents through the kids.

(Which is why so many of us are over-invested in what we think other people think about our kids. Sometimes shitty kid behavior is because of shitty parents, and sometimes it’s not. Often can’t tell by the snapshot you get.)

This is not to say that no one has personal responsibility for anything, contrary to what the current socio-political climate might suggest. (Or how some parents act regarding their kids.)

People are responsible for their actions. What they choose to do and say (or not do and not say).

That’s the thing—it’s not the owner’s fault that someone decided it was OK to open a car that didn’t belong to them and take things from inside. That is completely on the thief. No matter what is inside, no matter how much you can see or not see through the windows.

It’s not my fault that while drunk, a friend decided he could have sex with her. That is completely on the rapist.

“What did you expect?”

I expect that people will be decent to each other. I understand that this is not reality, possibly even most of the time. But I also know that often enough, people live up to or down to expectations.

I feel like … blaming the victim gives a pass to the perpetrator. And as soon as perpetrators get a pass, word spreads, and there are more of them.

Start to notice how often we blame the victim. Start to think about how much better off we’d be if we held the appropriate people accountable. Polish up your words and actions so as to have fewer victims. (None of us are never the perpetrator.) And see if we can spread that, instead.