Toxic People Suck!!

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We all have people in our lives that like to give us their opinion whether we ask for it or not.  Sometimes we have the courage to say “thanks but no thanks.”  Other times we grit our teeth and let them steamroll us with their tirade.

Whether these people are well-meaning or whether they are evil, sadistic, destructive, and hostile; you have the right to set a healthy boundary with them.  There is no law (that I’m aware of at least) that says you must continue to get shit on over and over and never put an end to it.  You may assume because they’re family or a life-long best friend you feel obligated to “take it,” but that thinking must be given careful reconsideration.

In The Art of Being, Erich Fromm says, “There is no contact between human beings that does not affect both of them.  (Bold added for effect) No meeting between two people, no conversation between them, except perhaps the most casual one, leaves either one of them unchanged–even though the change may be so minimal as to be unrecognizable except by its cumulative effect when such meetings are frequent.”

So I dare ask the question; have you ever gauged how healthy the interactions are that you have with people?

How many times have you been with a person and felt more alive, or in a better mood, or discovered new energy you didn’t realize you had?  You could have the worst headache in the world or cramps from hell (this applies a little more to my female readers in case you’re confused guys) and then an exchange with another human you admire will lift the headache like the sun lifts the early morning fog.  While talking to them you completely forget about your cramps and instantly life is good.

On the other hand, who hasn’t experienced the opposite effect?  You look at your ringing phone and your stomach turns when you see who’s calling.  Or that coworker who literally drains all your energy sits by you at lunch.  An exchange with someone that depletes your energy, causes you being depressed, makes you feel hopeless, or is an emotional vampire–they suck the life right out of you–these are the people you must establish a healthy boundary for.

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But if setting a safe distance or healthy boundary is not an option at the moment; Fromm gives some great advice: “Inasmuch as one cannot avoid bad company, one should not be deceived: One should see the insecurity behind the mask of friendliness, the destructiveness behind the mask of eternal complaints about unhappiness, the narcissism behind the charm.  One should also not act as if he or she were taken in by the other’s deceptive appearance–in order to avoid being forced into a certain dishonesty oneself.  One need not speak to them about what one sees, but one should not attempt to convince them that one is blind.”  So basically, in a nutshell, Fromm is saying to pay attention!  Don’t be sucked into their game and don’t fall for their fake niceness.

I can relate to being “forced into a certain dishonesty” like Fromm suggests.  I have been with people who have taken me in with their deceptive niceness and/or appearance only to realize after the fact that I was sucked into dishonesty–at the very least dishonesty with myself.

If you don’t feel the freedom to be your true self with someone, set a boundary.

If they cross the line over and over with their unwanted opinion, set a boundary.

If someone is an emotional vampire and is sucking the life from you, set a boundary.

If in your interactions with someone you notice you always give and they always take, set a boundary.

If you find you don’t like yourself very much after spending time with a certain person, set a boundary.

If someone always guilts you into seeing them, set a boundary.

Fromm goes on to give you the permission you may need to help yourself create healthy boundaries.  Remember, there is no contact between human beings that does not affect both of them.  With that thought in mind, he says; “If other people do not understand our behavior–so what? Their request that we must only do what they understand is an attempt to dictate to us.  If this is being ‘asocial’ or ‘irrational’ in their eyes, so be it.  Mostly they resent our freedom and our courage to be ourselves.  We owe nobody an explanation or an accounting, as long as our acts do not hurt or infringe on them.  How many lives have been ruined by this need to ‘explain,’ which usually implies that the explanation be ‘understood,’ i.e., approved.  Let your deeds be judged, and from your deeds your real intentions, but know that a free person owes an explanation only to himself–to his reason and conscience–and to the few who may have a justified claim for explanation.”

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There’s a healthy process we all go through while growing from a little boy or little girl into a healthy adult.  That process may be slowed–or halted altogether–if we lack the ability to set boundaries.  Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or siblings–anyone who stakes a claim on your well-being–may be too attached to your life and your activities.  There’s a fine line in families between love and support and then the opposite which is manipulation and control.

Assuming you’re an adult and can make your own choices, what is stopping you from setting healthy boundaries from the controlling, manipulating, or opinionated figure in your life?  There’s a way you can tell who these people are without even being in their presence; you find yourself having conversations with them in your head when they aren’t even there.  You may be trying to justify an action or explain yourself to them before they even ask you about it.  That’s when you know you may have an issue.

Let’s be clear about something: A healthy boundary doesn’t mean you stop loving the person or you never talk to them again.  You can still love someone even if from a safe distance.  Like Fromm implied, Pay Attention!  If you feel like you can’t be yourself with a certain person, set a boundary.  It should go without saying, but the those that love you unconditionally will love you inside and out, top to bottom, whether they agree with everything about you or not.

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The bottom line is this: Spend as much time as possible with the people that give you energy and life.  Limit your time with people that suck the life out of you or try to manipulate and control you.

Toxic people suck! Avoid them at all cost!

I have more to say, but enough for now.

Peace my friends!

~Travis

Guilt Sucks!!

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OK, so here’s what is going on with me: I’m wandering around the house feeling guilty for not doing several things at once. I feel as though I need to exercise, I feel as though I need to be writing, I feel as though I need to go buy some clothes for Hawaii, I feel as though I should go get a haircut, I feel as though I need to call my friend from Boston, and I feel as though I need to be cleaning the house. This overwhelming feeling leaves me paralyzed. While I struggle to decide which important thing I should be doing, I end up doing nothing. In order to work through this guilty feeling, I have decided to at least write about it so I’m doing one of the things I said I feel guilty about not doing.

It’s crazy; I sit and watch the clock tick away and I’m guiltier by the minute. I read for a little bit this morning, then made breakfast and sat down for a half-hour show and all of a sudden it’s after 10:00. Next thing I know, I’ll be off to get my son from school at 4:30 and I haven’t completed anything I planned on doing all day. That is not how the day has to go though. I can do things differently. I can write for a while, and then take the puppy for a walk, then clean for a while, then get my son from school. It all can be done with the time I have. As long as I stay out of my head long enough to not get sucked into some vortex of self-pity, I can do what I need to do today with my time.

Interestingly, I find myself yearning constantly about being a successful author who writes life-changing material for people to read. I dream about having long blocks of time to be able to pour my heart out on blank page after blank page. If only I didn’t have my day job I could become rich and famous for putting all these funny and quirky ideas that have been clanking around in my head like marbles in a pump into a readable format for the masses. Instead, I’m a poor helpless victim because I can’t spend the time writing that I wish I could. If only life were fair, I would be able to write every day in my boxers while sipping on coffee in the morning and red wine in the evening. While I’m at it; if life were fair I would be able to eat anything my poor little heart desired without having to deal with the emotional baggage that is making me overindulge in the first place. I should just be able to crinkle my nose like I Dream of Genie and all my issues would be solved. Right?

Unfortunately, life isn’t always fair and life does require something of me. I have to actually show up. I’m not going to randomly get a call from John Grisham’s agent one day and hear: “Yes, hi Travis, this is Agent Jim Doe, I understand you want to be a writer? I can’t wait to read everything you have been writing. You have been writing haven’t you?” That phone call is never going to happen unless I actually have been writing and writing enough to have something to offer the world.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been writing. But if my goal is to be a world-renowned author will I ever get to that point by only writing a paragraph or two every day? Sure, over the course of thirty years I might actually have enough to piece together a decent book, but if I want to enjoy the rewards of a fruitful writing career I have to go at it a little fiercer than a couple of paragraphs per day.

Given the struggle I have with my guilty feelings I mentioned earlier, I won’t become a successful author if I won’t sit down to write on the days I have extra time to sit down to write. Those are the days I can fill page after page until my ears are going to pop since the ideas are flowing fast. But truth be told, if I am dedicated to becoming an author, I need to write every spare moment I can get. I need to give writing so much focus that I can’t think about anything else when I’m awake except writing. If I’m not writing, when will I be able to write next? When I’m falling asleep, what do I plan on writing about when I wake up? Every spare moment I can steal away for the process of writing needs to be utilized in order to become the next great American author.

I may never become the next great American author for many reasons that will never be fully understood. Some authors don’t have the privilege of seeing their ideas supported during their lifetime while other authors experience waves of success that may seem undeserving in comparison. Nonetheless, whether success comes during my lifetime, after I’m dead, or not at all I must sit down and put my ideas on paper.

One of my favorite authors is Eric Hoffer because he worked as a longshoreman in San Francisco by day but wrote nearly a dozen small books throughout his lifetime. He wrote a book that became a bestseller called The True Believer: thoughts on the nature of mass movements. His book was written in 1951 and attempted to answer how people could willingly give themselves to mass movements whether they were meant for good or evil. After Hitler and the Holocaust several people in the world started asking themselves questions about how we could treat one another so despicably. Hoffer did his best to describe individuals who gave themselves completely to mass movements. He says, “Faith in a holy cause is to a considerable extent a substitute for the lost faith in ourselves. The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready is he to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.”

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I picked Eric Hoffer as an example because he worked full-time while he wrote his ideas. His sole income didn’t come from his writing and truth be told he probably didn’t make very much money from the books he did publish. Interestingly, though, this full-time longshoreman, part-time author, died in 1983 but his ideas live on many decades beyond him. When I think about being an author who may or may not sustain a respectable income from my ideas, I succumb to the fact that the income I receive is not my main concern. Sure, being rewarded for slapping the keyboard day after day seems like a fair and novel idea but the reward is in the life that was changed that I may never even know about. Decades, even centuries, could pass and the idea that I was brave enough to put down on paper could make a difference in someone’s life and could change the world for the better one person at a time. I may or I may not change the world, but if I don’t at least try I will never know.

Now that I have settled the writing part of my day and one of my reasons for guilt, I can move on to taking the puppy for a walk. Life is good.

What Women Want: A Side Note.

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Apparently this whole “What Women Want” thing has been on my mind for quite some time.  While going through some old files on the computer I came across this pic I took in 2007.

It reminded me I need to continue my series and expand on this topic.

I trust you are having a fantastic week!

~Travis

 

 

What Women Want: A Special Note to the Men

A Special Note to the Men
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While making our way to Part One of What Women Want, I’d like to take a second and share some thoughts with the men.  Ladies, of course you have my permission to eavesdrop (I know you would even if I told you not to). 🙂

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Men, your woman needs more from you. You have to be more engaged with your wife; you are communicating even when you think you aren’t. Your passivity speaks volumes.  Your silence speaks louder than your words.

I have learned I need to make a conscious effort to actually speak out of my mouth what I’m thinking in my head. For too long, my life was lived in my head so my wife had no idea what I was thinking because I rarely told her. I still struggle to speak everything I’m thinking but I’m working on it daily.

Your wife becomes adept at reading your mind by watching your actions and sadly your actions aren’t saying a whole lot either.

We must open our mouths and verbalize our thoughts. We must push through the uncomfortable awkwardness of putting ourselves out there. Our wives are not responsible for our frustrations about how our lives have turned out. As much as we want to blame our wives for our mess, it’s not their fault. We project our frustrations about life and our feelings of inadequacy on our wives so we don’t have to feel the weight of it. Regrettably, though, the weightiness never goes away. We can’t escape it.

We try to escape our frustrations and our inadequacies but they’re always there, just beneath the surface. We escape into sports, hobbies, television, or work.  Instead of facing ourselves and confronting our inadequacies head-on, we shrink and look for excuses. We walk around every day with a knot in our gut because life hasn’t turned out like we planned. We saw ourselves as important managers, business owners, or sports professionals—more successful than we are—and it eats away at us. We’re getting older and we begin to wonder what’s the point. Our lives of quiet desperation erode little by little internally. It’s as if we have a parasite that is eating us slowly from the inside out.

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The first thing to realize is this feeling is not your wife’s fault. She is not responsible for this knot in your gut. She’s not responsible any more than the mirror on the wall is responsible for what you see in it. The mirror only reflects what it sees and your wife only responds to what she sees and hears from you. She serves as your mirror—a living, breathing mirror that projects back an honest portrayal of yourself. If you don’t like your wife very much, it could be you don’t like the reflection of yourself that she’s mirroring back to you.

This isn’t easy. It’s very difficult to admit we could be the issue and it’s not all her fault. Life seems easier when we have a scapegoat. Having to take full responsibility for ourselves isn’t fun.

Women are very intuitive creatures. They have an uncanny knack for feeling deep down what is happening in any given situation. Their men don’t have to say anything for them to understand they are not number one. She knows you are disengaged. She understands you’d rather drift through life without conflict from her. Unfortunately, she can’t sit idly by and watch you go through life depressed all the time. She nags at you because she cares. She points out you’ve been amiss lately because she longs to have the man back she fell in love with. She knows he’s still there deep down—she sees glimpses every once in a while—but she also knows the pressures of everyday life can get heavy. She’s not intentionally bothering you just to annoy you. She’s calling out to you in hopes that your true self will hear her.

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She wants you to know that it’s all right that you’ve changed over the years—she’s changed too. Life has a funny way of changing two people. It’s not the changes that concern her the most, it’s the drifting apart and complete lack of a connection—even once in a while—that eats away at her. She longs for you to turn towards her like you used to instead of turning away from her.

An important thing to remember is she’s just as uncertain about life as you are. She has doubts, insecurities, and regrets, too. She thinks about the course her life has taken and wonders if she went in the right direction with every decision she’s made. She doesn’t blame you for who she’s become. She’s made a choice to be with you and she still sees the good in you; so if given the chance 100 more times, she’d choose you 101.

I recently heard Garth Brooks’ Somewhere Other Than the Night and I think his words are appropriate here. Enjoy.

He could see the storm clouds rollin’ across the hill
He barely beat the rain in from the field
And between the backdoor slammin’ she heard him say
“Damn this rain and damn this wasted day”
But she’d been waitin’ for this day for oh so long
She was standin’ in the kitchen with nothin’ but her apron on
And in disbelief he stood and he stared a while
When their eyes met, they both began to smile

Somewhere other than the night
She needs to hear I love you
Somewhere other than the night
She needs to know you care
She wants to know she’s needed
She needs to be held tight
Somewhere other than the night

They spent the day wrapped up in a blanket
On the front porch swing
He’d come to realize he’d neglected certain things
And there are times she feels alone even by his side
It was the first time she ever saw him cry

Somewhere other than the night
She needs to hear I love you
Somewhere other than the night
She needs to know you care
She wants to know she’s needed
She needs to be held tight
Somewhere other than the night

To know she’s needed
She needs to be held tight
Somewhere other than the night

Peace and Love,

~Travis

 

PS. I’m intrigued to hear your feedback.

An Update on My Journey Back to Health: 160 (or so) Days In

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Approximately 165 days ago I watched the documentary Hungry for Change.  A coworker told me all about it so I went home that night and found it on Netflix.  It took me a few days, but after the message of Hungry for Change sank in, I decided to start using the My Fitness Pal app and embark on a journey of health.  I chose the My Fitness Pal app because being a guy that dieted on and off most my adult life, the last thing I needed was more unused products collecting dust around the house.  I weighed in at the beginning of September, 2013 and as of today I’m happy to say I’ve lost 41 pounds.  Using the My Fitness Pal app has been my saving grace from a life of yo-yo dieting.

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Unfortunately, 20 days into using the app I missed a day.  So, instead of having a 160+ day streak, today is my 140th straight day of logging what I eat.

Even though I didn’t lose any weight from Thanksgiving until after New Years, using the app made all the difference in the world for staying aware during a time when it’s easy to lose control.

I would say that’s the biggest difference the app makes: AWARENESS!  Even when I eat something high in calories, I’m aware of how many I take in every day.  There’s a button at the bottom of the food diary that says, “Complete Entry.”  When I click that button at the end of the day, there’s a message that comes up and says, “If every day were like today . . . You’d weigh XXX.X lbs in 5 weeks.”  This is the single-most eye-opening feature of the app because on the days I struggled, it helped me visualize why I gained weight in the first place.  Then on the days I stayed within my calorie count and got exercise in, seeing that number say what I could weigh in 5 weeks was an amazing motivator.

The biggest takeaway from Hungry for Change that has stayed with me since September is this:  this is not a diet!  My wife and I have done everything in our power to restrict processed foods and increase whole foods: fruits, vegetables, nuts, meats, eggs, and all-things-paleo.  We wouldn’t classify ourselves as Paleo/Primal “only” but we have crowded-out all the processed crap with as much healthy food as possible.  I am now aware of what foods make me feel good, what foods make me feel unaware and addicted, and what foods are nothing but wasted calories.  I am now aware the foods I ate before were really not “food,” they were food-like substitutes that were high-calorie, low-nutrient.  Now the food I put in my mouth is real food.  I eat high-nutrient, low-calorie foods as much as possible and I feel amazing as a result.  My greatest surprise has been discovering vegetables I now love that I didn’t even know existed before.

If you’re on the fence about changing your health, please watch Hungry for Change!  If you need a free way to track your calories and keep you accountable, the My Fitness Pal app is truly a lifesaver!  If you decide to try the app and want some encouragement along the way, we can be friends on the app and communicate through the app.  If there’s any other way I can be of assistance, please let me know.  Here’s to another 140-day-streak of health!!

Peace!

Travis

Balance

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Balance

When I was a kid I went on a field trip to the circus. One of the things that impressed me the most was the guy that juggled. As he switched from object to object I found myself in awe! I swear that guy could juggle three kitchen sinks if he wanted to.

Recently, I took my kids to a Notre Dame Women’s basketball game in South Bend. The halftime entertainment was a guy that juggled several different objects. I started being impressed when he juggled golf drivers while rolling around a short unicycle. I then became majorly impressed when this guy climbs up a 10 foot ladder and climbs aboard a 10 foot high unicycle. He needed his assistant to toss objects up to him, which he caught, all while keeping his balance on this
insanely
tall
one
wheeled
long
chained
giant
excuse
for
a
bike.

One of the things I’m learning about life is in order to be healthy and happy I have to have balance. Balance is necessary in every facet of my life. When it comes to building a new house, coaching sports, attempting to be healthier, spectating sports, time with my wife, work, time with friends, and personal time(by personal time I mean emotionally, spiritually, physically, mentally, and rest); I have to find a balance. If I focus too much on one aspect then the rest of the areas get ignored. When parts of my life get ignored then the other areas suffer.

Finding balance is key. For example, I went to the doctor recently and have committed to getting healthier. I discovered that I have a pattern with dieting and eating. I commit to eating healthy and that lasts for about 2 weeks. Then, I slip into bad eating habits again for about 2 months or more. Then, I realize the error of my ways so I commit to eating healthy again. And so the pattern goes. If somehow I could flip-flop that pattern I might make a lot better progress. 🙂 Being more aware and more deliberate about my eating habits helps give me balance throughout all areas of my life.

I was looking at inspirational pictures online when I came across the one above and thought it was a great reminder of giving ourselves a break. Up until last Wednesday, I was feeling pretty good about the progress I was making in regards to my health. The days after Wednesday weren’t the healthiest of days so I felt those “Here you go again, you’re such a failure” thoughts creeping back in. You know the thoughts. “You might as well just give up trying seems how you know you won’t be successful.” And then I came across this quote. “Forgive yourself and do better tomorrow!” What words of wisdom!

What are you struggling with? Are you focusing so much of your energy on one aspect of your life that the others are suffering? What can you do to find balance this week? What areas of your life do you need to just forgive yourself and do better tomorrow?

Oh,
and
by
the
way,
who
can
teach
me
to
ride
a
ten
foot
high
uni
cycle????

Wishing you a balanced tomorrow!

~Travis