A Contortionist’s Life


Either there has been a lot more talk lately or I’ve been much more aware of the talk of self-imposed limitations these past few months. And while I’ve always agreed with the idea and felt like I understood it, tonight, during yoga while thinking of contortionists, I reached a much deeper level of understanding.

It was when I began to understand the physical limitations that many of us have that some do not that I began to understand that “self-imposed” is a little misleading. The term implies a sense of awareness or choice. Some of our limitations that we’ve created are by choice. Letting fear prevent us from reaching our desires is sometimes a choice. Choosing comfortable over exciting is sometimes a choice. But there are many other limitations that we have self-created that are not choices we’ve consciously made but habits we’ve developed or patterns of living we’ve adopted or been “forced” into.

When, as an American, I drive on the right hand side of the rode, this is far less a choice than a habit or pattern. It isn’t saying that I can’t chose to drive on the left side of the road, but most of my driving is now automatic. So is most of our lives. This idea was brought to my attention because of my relatively limited hip flexibility. There are many people that do not have these same limitations, but I can’t simply identify the limitation that I’ve let myself grow to develop and correct it instantly through choice. I will need to change many aspects of my life in order to obtain the flexibility that the human body is capable of. And this area of correction is perhaps what was most illuminated to me tonight. I cannot simply choose to remove the limitations my life has developed. It is not a mind over matter, willing oneself to victory event in most cases. It is a long struggle much of the time. But in this, we begin to understand who we are and what is important to us, because it is not easy and fast. Because we cannot have everything, we find out who we really are.

As Aristotle said, “we are what we repeatedly do.” Many remain on autopilot, stuck in our life patterns, but if you are fortunate enough to become aware, you have the responsibility and opportunity to become who you want to be. And there is some pressure in this. It requires some seemingly difficult decisions. But they are good decisions to get to be making. You control your life. But to control your life, you must let go of a lot of your programming, a lot of what made life easy, because it was a safe, comfortable path you were on. It was the path to mediocrity. But mediocrity, while we don’t want to admit it, is comfortable and for many that comfort is desirable. But maybe you know there is more.

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How Do We Know

Author Amy Hemple has a great little short short story, The Man in Bogota, which (spoiler alert) includes the tale of a man who is kidnapped and held for ransom. But because his family isn’t wealthy, it takes them months to raise the ransom money. And while the captors wait for the ransom, they try to keep the man, who is in poor health alive. So they make him stop smoking, they force him to exercise and eat healthy. So when he is finally released, he is healthier than he has been in a very long time.

I still hope I don’t get kidnapped, but when so much of our mood and life is effected by our outlook on life, seeing every obstacle and challenge as making you better goes a long way. Seeing every major life event as an opportunity to change and become more of the person you want to be, will help you stop seeing risk as such a bad thing. Because after all, the worst-case scenario usually isn’t that bad. It is almost always a place from which you can recover. Very few things in life are final, so embrace risk. Odds the risks you take will either let you get what you wanted or let you get what you didn’t know you wanted. Either way, it will be a great adventure.

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So It Goes

Circumstances have led me to spend a lot of time lately thinking about death. When I was twenty, my brother’s sudden death by an unknown heart condition forced me to spend more time than usual thinking about death and my own mortality. The contemplation I’ve been undertaking has been far less personal, and possibly, because of that, it has been more productive.

I don’t know that I have any unique thoughts on the subject. I’ve just been moving towards an idea that death is just something that has to happen. It’s appearance certainly brings about a lot of emotion, which it should. More than anything, death is really about loss. We miss the person. That is the primary emotion. Secondary, is helplessness. We can’t help the situation and struggle with our awareness of our lack of control. There are also a lot of other complicating factors that come into play depending on the circumstances, but at the heart of death is missing someone and knowing you can do nothing about their loss. This doesn’t diminish the impact of death. This might not make it any easier to deal with it. So I don’t know what good it is to have thought this.

So it goes.

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On Being Vulnerable

I’m very thankful for where I am now. I’ve finally healed from my brother’s death. I’m much more open now. I’m more trusting and loving. I give more of myself to everything. I’m taking chances more freely, and sometimes, with that, making a few more mistakes. But I’m more resilient. I’ve been through the worst in life. It’s taken me a long time to get back, but sometimes a long time is what must be paid.
What I’ve learned from this is that you can’t protect yourself. You can only learn to accept the shit that happens in life. If you’re trying to protect yourself, you’re only separating yourself from what you really care about.

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The Power of Words

“One positive or negative word from you can make/ruin someone’s day. Don’t be a butt.”
-Ian Lurie

They are so easy to produce but probably have a more profound impact on our lives than anything else. We’ve all heard the saying that “actions speak louder than words,” but it is far more frequent that we get to use our words. Strangers seldom get to be blessed with our positive actions, but a simple smile and hello can improve their mood and by extension their whole day and possibly everyone else they come into contact with that day. Offering up a complement or even a little small talk with a stranger can have an even greater impact. The conversation doesn’t even have to be that meaningful. The act of acknowledging someone’s existence while waiting for the “Do not walk” signal to change makes them feel a little less invisible in the world, a little more like people care about them, even if only in some very small way. Which is important. Having a lot of people care a little can go a long way towards improving our world, because so many problems result from not caring at all.

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Find Someone Who Needs Help and Help Them

It is a simple philosophy. We can complicate it but only if you are looking for an excuse not to help. The power of a simple idea is that it is so easy to adhere. Understand that what a person asks for might not help them, but they likely need help. So find someone who needs help and help them. This can’t not make the world a better place.

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Building Momentum with Exercise

I made the morning bad today. I entered it with no enthusiasm and put forth little effort into building momentum, and had three slices of sausage pizza for breakfast. My moments of activity were only going back and forth between the couch and bed. I took two naps as opposed to my usual none. I was even falling into self-pity a bit before deciding to smile and realizing how much of this, if not all, was simple to overcome.

The day didn’t turn into a glorious day, but I did enjoy a nice walk. The day did help me realize the biggest obstacle I’ve been facing. Many people complain that they don’t exercise because they don’t have the time. My problem is the opposite. The biggest obstacle for my exercise compliance is too much time. On days when I have to work in the morning, I have no problem setting my alarm early, getting to the gym, and getting on with the day full of energy and enthusiasm. When I don’t have to get up early and I have plenty of time, I am afforded the opportunity to procrastinate and eventually avoid working out. And when I don’t exercise, I tend to feel miserable.

Momentum is powerful stuff. So is routine. I was able to establish a strong routine when I had a regular work schedule. Now, without the regular work schedule, I know I need to work harder to establish my own personal schedule for the morning to establish the momentum needed to succeed everyday.

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