A Dawdler in the Regiment

In olden times, say, when I was in high school, such schools still had Guidance Counselors who evidently thought it genuinely helpful for students (or at least, highly amusing to the counselors and their pals) to give “aptitude tests” to predict youths’ futures. These assessments were ostensibly meant to help us kids find our true paths in life and, more importantly, to steer us somewhere in a job-like direction when we graduated. But of course, they had more than a tiny whiff of the whimsical, as most students knew that giving fanciful answers to the quizzing garnered some pretty fantastical career proposals for them. I was too much of a Goody Two-shoes in those days, apparently, to opt for that form of entertainment. Pity.

You would think I’d’ve been right there on that artistic bandwagon, given the inspiring leadership of my father, who was known to send excuse notes to school after any of my illness-driven absences that led to Public Service Announcements on the school intercom system detailing my kidnap by Green Gremlins, among other purported adventures, and filled my classmates and teachers with glee. But instead of following Dad’s fine example, I answered the Aptitude Test questions with the dull and timid truth that was my safety net at the time, and was assessed as having correspondingly dreary potential.

Photo: Calculated Risks

I guess I just never was big on taking risks.

That was how it sounded to my young ears, anyway. My best option was listed as joining the military, not the most obvious choice for a deep-dyed pacifist. I certainly was no Daughter of the Regiment, born and bred to the military life.

Future Me #2: working in a funeral home. Now, lest you think I’m denigrating funeral professionals or that I consider them or their work boring, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I want minimal fuss, maximum simplicity, when it comes to disposing of my corpse: recycle any usable parts for medicine and science, burn the rest without flourish, and throw out the ashes as compost ASAP. But funerary services aren’t for the dead, are they. Those who offer care and consolation to anyone in need, especially in grief and loss, have my highest respect. It’s tough and complicated work, and tremendously important. I’m just not the person for the job. I haven’t the knowledge, the skills, or the selflessness that doing that admirable work requires. It would take a more creative and positive approach than I can offer.

I don’t lack for imagination, and I’m not wholly without empathy, I hope. But perhaps my peculiar kind of imagination—the surreal and byzantine, the cheerfully macabre—is not the very best sort to be exercised in most funeral counseling and service arrangements, let alone in preparation of a person’s remains for a dignified viewing and memorial service. And there are the added complications of my being easily overwhelmed by others’ worries and struggles, never mind my being horrendously squeamish. If the High School guidance counselor thought it’d be a hoot to see what happened when he put me into the parlor with a grieving family and I suggested they convert Grandpa’s remains into a friendly robot to keep them company and tend to their housekeeping, following that recommendation immediately with a fit of hysterical cackling and a dash out the nearest door to vomit, then perhaps he had the right candidate. Green Gremlins in my future as well as my past.

Photo: A Boar No More?

I’ve always loved the interesting landscapes, history, and art in cemeteries, and I don’t mean to be a pig about it, or a boor, but funerary work didn’t seem like my destiny to me.

The military option was at least in one way more realistic: part of me does crave order. So many other characteristics (dare I say it) militated against my joining any of the armed forces that it was an obvious non-starter for me, but all of these years later I still find myself  wanting to bring more order to my daily life. Starting a daily blog was a good step in that direction, when I did it four-plus years ago. Now I need to extend that discipline to other areas of my day-to-day occupations so as to maximize both their productivity and my pleasure in them. I expect both better health and more enjoyment as payment for the new commitments.

What elements of life would I like to habituate more fully by regimenting them with a slightly rigorous daily schedule for now? First, sleep. Yes, I know that you know I sleep far more than average, and I relish long, uninterrupted nights. I would rather sleep less but more healthfully, to be honest. Be more dependably, deeply asleep, and a bit earlier, and then more fully refreshed and alert when awake.

Hydration is a higher priority than ever, too. It seems small enough, but the good doctor who just shot down my kidney stone assures me that no matter what my geological analysis reveals, I had better start drinking more water to stay healthier, and I know that if I don’t just plain schedule it in for a while, I’m unlikely to remember to make it a habit. Exercise is another such thing. I have no desire to become an athlete. That’s neither in my inherent character nor on my wish list; I do, however, want to be set up for as long and healthy a life as I can manage, and the sedentary nature of writing and making most kinds of art is both antithetical to physical movement and so engrossing that I tend to forget to merely take breaks to move. If I schedule those breaks for a while, just like any old-school union employee, I hope I may train myself to improve in that regard.

I’ve already become slightly more regulated in my dietary ways, since my spousal-person and I successfully navigated our post-summer month of rehab-style eating (low carb, low sugar, no processed and junky foods) and both feel better. Good encouragement to continue the process with diet and otherwise.

The most important piece of the newly regularized itinerary for my average day is to shift the focus of my writing and artistic discipline gradually away from being dedicated to daily blogging and toward a new, more personally fulfilling version of my creative output. More books for publication, probably, on the relatively near horizon. A reduced blogging schedule, something more like three days a week, will certainly help me in that regard. But I think I’m just getting a little hungry, whether it’s more from four-plus years focused on that daily post or from merely getting a little older and more constantly aware of my finitude, the ever-increased nearness of my own need for funerary services from somebody who took the career path I didn’t—it doesn’t matter why. I’m just feeling ready to ramble in a new direction, and the only way I generally get used to such things is to build them into a Plan, for starters. To regulate and codify and systematize them into a semblance of order.

I never did join the military, but it turns out I tend to do fairly well in my own regiment.

Photo: Ah, but Witch Regiment?

Maybe I *was* destined for a more regimented life. Ah, but witch regiment?

Foodie Tuesday: Drink & Shrink

photoWould that I could tell you that today’s post title implies I’ve discovered a miracle diet that allows me to become slinky and svelte by doing nothing but sipping cocktails, yet alas, this most sadly is not so. In fact, it’s a very safe bet that numerous cocktails are, like certain bras, nothing more than alluring cups full of doom, being bad for both health and sanity if sampled in inappropriate quantities and circumstances. But to steer closer to my actual point, I must confess that despite my many food-and-drink-related loves and obsessions, I do get quite hungry and thirsty for a healthier change on occasion.

Like now. I seem to have been on a bender lately, eating too often, too much, and too badly in general, and my body is complaining. It’s not that I have grown morbidly obese, thanks more to good genes and good luck than good behavior, but I have grown a whole lot closer to outgrowing my attire and decidedly closer, as well, to just not feeling so great. It makes me squirm when I think of how unfit I will be in short shrift if I don’t just stop being such a spoiled child around food. And I have it on good authority that being horribly unfit is not the way to insure a longer, healthier life.

Drat.

photo

At least I know that I can still have delicious food, but even if it’s better for me, eating too many helpings of ‘Waldorf’ slaw (sweet cabbage-yogurt salad with chopped apples) is just as dangerous to my eating habits as too many helpings of pretty much anything.

I must throw a bracing dash of cold water on my enthusiasm for overindulgence and get myself closer to optimal comfort. I don’t care if that makes me model-thin or gives me fab abs or any of that superficially pleasing stuff or not; what I want is to feel my best and have a good shot at the whole ‘live long and prosper’ proposition. I know from experience that among other benefits of returning to a more thoughtful eating agenda, my appreciation of all that I do eat and drink increases greatly, to the point where a simple slice of citrus and a glass of pure, clean water is a pleasing sensory experience as well as thirst-quenching, and a complete meal becomes a feast. So much more satisfying in the long run.

And I do want a good long run of it, after all.photo

Sometimes I Surprise Myself

I catch a glimpse of myself in a window or mirror as I pass, and I am astonished to realize that the person I see is Me. It’s not so much that I’m horrified or amused by my rapid slide into aging’s odd forms of pseudo-disguise, by my generally slovenly dishevelment after rigorous housecleaning or gardening, or by my bizarre thoughtlessness about what I left the house wearing (though any of those might conceivably play a role from time to time); mostly, it’s just that I don’t really think that much in general about what I look like and so it always catches me very slightly off guard. My spouse tells me he finds me attractive, and that’s all I care much about, as my appearance goes, short of anyone finding me visually repellant, and thus far, no one has admitted that one to me.photo montageFortunately, the same spouse who is stuck looking at me more than any other person has also acted as my barber and general appropriate-dress consultant for the last eighteen years or so, so if he doesn’t like what he sees, he’s free to recommend a different outfit or cut my hair in a new way. This last summer’s road trip, while it didn’t make it impossible to cut my hair, made it inconvenient enough that we decided to just experiment with growing it out longer than two or three weeks’ worth as has been the norm for all these years. It was mostly just a laziness-motivated decision on my part, but after a couple of extra weeks I started to like the idea of just seeing how my hair grew out after having been so uniformly short for a couple of decades.photo montageTurns out, there’s some slight wave to my hair, an unexpected–ahem–turn after the last number of years having had pretty much straight hair, short as it was. I kind of like that what white hairs I have show up better with the slightly longer look too–an accent I like much better than my naturally bland brownette color. Hey, maybe the streaks of white will further highlight my pasty-pale complexion. Ha! Not for nothing that my Thai college roommate and her friends from home called me Princess Snow White!

I decided to celebrate my new/old (wink-wink) look by trying my hand at jewelry assembly last week, and concocted a necklace out of jewelry findings and parts plus a couple of items I already had among my collected miniature sculptural found-object goodies. While I’m obviously a neophyte at the whole practice of concocting jewelry, I was rather pleased with my little semi-Steampunk necklace, perhaps the more so because the first person who saw me wearing it the first time I did so was very complimentary. Given all of the new bits of image-tweaking, and having been asked by a couple of friends to update my Gravatar now that I have a tad more hair to show, it seems apropos to get around to it. In another slightly surprising event, I managed to take a photo in which my eyes remained open, I did not decapitate my self-portrait or get my usual wildly wiggly motion blur, and most amazingly of all, I don’t mind the picture terribly much. So here we go. Never know what I’ll surprise myself with next.photo

Foodie Tuesday: Guess My Weight!

photoI’ve always thought of those who focus on weight as being a little bit mean and, no pun intended, narrow-minded. There used to be people at the State Fair whose sole skill was apparently to guess the weight of passersby, and I could never imagine what purpose that served, most particularly what positive purpose it could possibly have. There are still plenty of places, notably supplement, nutrition and ‘health’ stores, that keep scales around for customers’ use, and again, that strikes me as unfriendly, since the aim seems to be to make people aware of their ‘improper’ weight so that they will purchase all sorts of cures and rescues from the proprietors. Yet another cruel use of the scale: humiliation and robbery. All perfectly legal and, the perpetrators would likely argue, well-meaning, as of course their goal is to save lives and make people healthy along the way. Sorry about the miserable portion of the transaction, y’all, but it’s necessary.

Well, yes, sometimes intervention’s the only tenable solution. But not nearly so often as one might think, if only when guided by the popular imagery of skinny-as-beautiful, as successful, as admirable, and anything other than skinny as not so. I’m well aware that to help one achieve and maintain good health over a long life, generally speaking it’s advisable to keep one’s weight in a range that is proportionate in a fairly specific way to one’s height, bone structure, and/or other physical criteria. But it’s also true that not only are there plenty of variables besides weight that are significant parts of the health and longevity puzzle but many people outside the ‘norms’ strictly in weight also survive and thrive and even live very long lives doing so. An additional truth: that beauty is widely, wildly variable in its manifestations, and in how we perceive it.

There is still the business about how my weight makes me feel, emotionally yes but more especially so, physically. I’m one of those fairly despicable people who never struggled with trying to weigh anything but what I did by simple default, but like most people (at least most of the privileged people I’ve known), I find that’s changing little by little as I age. So now, what little my weight changes has a more noticeable effect on how I feel. The bad news is that at long last, I do find it takes a little bit of effort to keep my weight in my own comfort zone. The good news is that, so far, it does take relatively little effort, because two small changes are starting to make it easier for me to predict what will or won’t work for me, in dietary terms.

Two small things: one, that I eat less heavily processed [‘junk’] food and see that more of what I do eat is thoughtfully prepared (i.e., not ‘junked up’ in preparation); the second, that I eat more thoughtfully. I simply don’t need to eat the quantities I eat, nor as often as I do so. Simple. Yet not. Because, of course, I’m your typical habit-ridden, easily tempted, food crazy creature, and I have grown up eating what I wanted, when I wanted, in whatever big batches I wanted, and without many consequences. Now that I’m subject to consequence it’s not quite an instantaneous transition to being smart about my eating, least of all about only eating when I’m genuinely hungry. I’m working on it. I feel better when I stick to it.

And I’m still not going to go hopping on the scale to weigh myself. How many pounds I weigh has nothing to do with whether my clothes fit the way I’d like them to or whether I feel attractive, and less than nothing to do with whether I’ll feel well and be healthy or I’ll survive for many years to come. So many factors play a part in that equation. I just want to help tip the odds a little in my favor if I can by eating a bit less, and a little bit less often, and when I do eat, eating things I really, truly enjoy, with mindful pleasure. More fun, and I hope, for a much longer time.photo