Inside: Lessons learned since LGN 1; Not everyone is beautiful; It’s about choices; Makeshift triathlon
Not everyone is beautiful. In the spirit, in the soul, in the sum of the choices where beauty lives. It’s more than just looking good — being aesthetically pleasing. Hot, cute, sexy, pretty don’t necessarily have anything to do with beauty. It’s a trait worth aspiring to, not something you’re born with — well, innocence may be a form of beauty — because it’s a trait that has to be cultivated, at least in my semantics.
It’s like …
…when you look at someone and see the sum of themselves: imperfect past, ambitions, and humbling life experiences that make them who they are in light of who they’re going to be. The (potential?) grace with which they’re journeying from birth to death.
Some people are toxic. Some are inwardly ugly, hateful, or spiteful. That doesn’t make anyone unworthy of compassion. Like, you never know what their story is or how they got to be that way. What wounds and scars are they carrying around?
Although I will tell someone that they’re beautiful, I would never tell someone that they’re not. I figure that if there’s someone whose human spirit isn’t in some way a shining light, I must not know them well. Still, there are people I don’t like being around because our energies are incompatible. Maybe they’re just unpleasant to be around or they habitually lash out. Maybe they are mean, abusive, and bitter. Compassion doesn’t mean that you don’t have boundaries.
For every vile racist I encountered when I was young, imagine what their home lives were like? What kind of parent teaches hate? If you’re so angry and hateful that it’s brimming over and flowing into your children, there’s absolutely no way that you’re not a flaming asshole.
Yet, I’ve seen confederate flag flying, racist curmudgeons come to the aid of me or my family just because it’s the right thing to do.
We’re not a bunch of comic book characters so most of us can’t be simplistically labeled as good or bad. Good or evil.
“Beautiful” usually applies to women. (You ever notice in how many stories and movies that the evil female villain’s motive is trying to be youthful? Stealing beauty and vitality.) Is there an equivalent term for men? I’m just going to use it across genders even though I run the risk of alienating men by using a word with soft or feminine connotations.
Saying that every one is beautiful is like saying everyone has chiseled abs. It’s patently false even if the potential is there.
Words mean something. We’re not all the same. And that’s a good thing but it does mean that some of us are better at things than others. Stronger, faster, more flexible, more creative, thoughtful, better cook, patient, kind, socially conscious. Some of us look better than others, too.
Unfortunately, in the circles I find myself in, the ideal man is … well, I don’t know about you but let’s just say that I’m the exact opposite of the cultural aesthetic in many ways.
Luckily, it’s not a zero sum game. What makes us, is all of our traits molded, sculpted, formed, worn, and distressed to be truly unique. We perceive and experience each other more through a prism or kaleidoscope than a telescope or microscope.
So even though not everyone is beautiful, everyone is a miracle. Every one is unique. You are the only you there will ever be. Ever. Since the universe began until it ends, you’re it. You may rhyme with other people but you are your own stanza in the poetry of existence recited.
No matter where I roam
Every single soul is a poem
Written on the back of God’s hand
– Michael Franti
So what? What’s my point. Um. I guess … we choose to shine. We choose to be beautiful. We choose to be good. Or not. We also choose instant gratification. We choose ourselves over others. We choose what is easy instead of what’s right.
It’s not a simple or single choice, obviously. “I choose success and riches and admiration. Thanks.”
It’s mostly a small choice to go in a certain direction that we think will take us one step closer to our goals and who we want to be. It’s not simple and often it’s not fair. It’s overwhelming and baffling when you’re faced with a hundred paths that look the same but each one will take you to a different life. Circumstances interfere and intervene. There are detours and road blocks, injuries and tragedies.
You can’t tell from the first few steps how the rest of the the path goes. It may be a good one. It may feel right. Perfect. Turn around the bend and it’s a fork. You were happy on that path and now you have to make a choice into the unknown. Maybe someone up ahead can give you a hint. Probably not.
It’s all about choices. Who we are, our level of fitness, our accomplishments are all based on the sum of our choices.
BRINGING IT DOWN TO THE MUNDANE
It’s not the donut binge you went on the other day or the pizza I may or may not have ordered the other night and did not enjoy but ate anyway. That’s one decision at one moment. It’s what we do the day before and after.
It’s choices that we allow or encourage into habits that count. That’s where it’s at.
I usually don’t have sugar in the house. For years at a time I won’t have any actual sugar in the house. In the last few months, though — since I got the Keurig coffee machine — I’ve gotten into the habit of making a big ol’ cup of coffee every morning. Hot or iced. Hit it with some peppermint oil. Or nutmeg and cinnamon.
That’s a heaping tablespoon of sugar every morning. About 50 calories of refined sugar and 12 to 16g of carbiness. Maybe not a big deal but that’s nothing to sneeze at, especially if I have another in the afternoon.
So now I’m trying to get into the habit of not sugaring up my drinks. Actually, a coffee with a little half and half isn’t bad at all. Just needs a little sugar. I mean… no, wait. Okay, that’s exactly what I mean. It’s cool, though. It’s perfectly fine without it. But it could use a little sugar or agave nectar. Why are you sitting there reading and not bringing me something sweet! I’ll pay you, man. Please! Just a teaspoon. One teaspoon.
I guess the half and half is next.
I also want to do a little bit of trail running on a regular basis. My lower legs and rear drive train need constant activity and attention or they get tight and prone to injury. 5K is a good distance. That’s all I want. A good 5K time. That would only be about half an hour. The cycling is great but I also need weight bearing cardio. For some reason I can’t bring myself to do sprints in the real world. Sprinting class, UA?
I guess I can just intimidate the housewives and retirees in the apartment fitness room gym and use the treadmill if/when the weather turns.
PEOPLE ARE ADAPTATION MACHINES
I underestimate how important novelty is in everything. Our brains are pattern recognition and adaptation neural networks.
We really shouldn’t need incentive to better ourselves, right. We usually know what we need to do to get closer to a certain goal. That isn’t enough, though.
It takes life hacking, reminders, goals, rewards, incentives. Mind games, in other words, because we have to overcome or constantly challenge our amazing ability to adapt.
There are people who are entirely self-motivating and driven. I’m not one of them. Well, I am for a few months at a time but it doesn’t take much to derail me.
It doesn’t matter what it is either. It could be working and eating to achieve a physical goal or it could be something completely in the realm of recreational fun and enjoyment. Work, family, relationships. It could be abuse and dysfunction. People will adapt to being treated like dirt until it becomes the norm.
The good news is that knowing all of this is in itself empowering. We can jumpstart ourselves out of a rut. We can rev up from a plateau. We can light a fire under ourselves and others.
We can get help, encouragement, and support!
LGN 100 RECREATIONAL TRIATHLON
Last but not least, I want to do a personal triathlon. Walk/jog/hike, kayak, and bike
I’m making this up as I go but:
Walk/run from the Lincoln Memorial to Key Bridge Boathouse in Georgetown. Kayak around Roosevelt Island. Then bike from Georgetown to Bethesda. No. Bike ride from Georgetown up to Bethesda and down Rock Creek Park and then back to the Lincoln Memorial. Something like that.
It’s still a very loose idea. Suggestions are welcome.
Go get ’em, team.