Killing Me Softly (That Which I Consume)

I met a lady several years ago was allergic to gluten. Her allergy to it was so bad that coming into contact with it or breathing it in could seriously damage her health, even kill her. I found it amazing that from the surface, no one could tell she had Celiac Disease. She had learned to stay away from the thing that could kill her.

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Giant Pretzel from Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany

There was a time that my wife believed she had the same allergy. Her symptoms were less severe, but they were still symptoms (i.e. tummy pains and skin problems). The hardest thing for a woman with an Italian heritage to change is eliminating wheat from her diet. Because wheat is such a staple ingredient of so many people’s diet, it would be a hard thing for many adults to eliminate. I don’t think we really ever removed it from her diet, we just reduced the amount of it. After the birth of our son, many of the issues were not as bad. After a while, her consumption of wheat products went back up. I think some of the symptoms are starting to come back. Maybe the wheat was rearing its ugly head in a way that wasn’t easily noticeable. There is a chance, however, that the wheat was doing its damage in the background. That’s what scares me.


This week I read an interesting article on the Tim Ferris blog: How to Keep Feces Out of Your Bloodstream (or Lose 10 Pounds in 14 days). With a title like that I couldn’t help but read it. As I read about the health issues of the three different individuals mentioned in the article, I began to think of my wife and some of the issues she has dealt with for most of her life. After I read this article, I shared it with my Mother-in-Law messaging her, “ Could my wife be in this same situation?” Could her diet be slowly, silently killing her?

Thinking of this as a slow killer made me think of smoking. Would anybody smoke if the first inhalation caused immediate symptons such as death? I don’t think so. But I am pretty sure the lady that could possibly die from eating gluten, would never consider eating it. But smoking doesn’t immediately kill you, instead that inhalation creates a different result that some find pleasant and calming. The possibilities of what it does down the road seem relatively insignificant compared to the effects produced in the here and now.


img_0551Another thing I am reading is The 12 Rules For Life by Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. I have only made it through the second chapter, but everything I have read so far has hit a nerve (in a positive way). This second chapter discusses what a person would do for her sick pet. She would go to great lengths to make sure the pet is cared for and the medicine is administered. But would she go to those same lengths to take care of herself if she was sick? I know I am guilty of this. Have I always done the right things concerning my body? Have I always taken my medicine when I was supposed to? Toward the end of this chapter, I found a passage that really stood out:

You are important to other people, as much as to yourself…You are, therefore, morally obliged to take of yourself. You should take care of, help and be good to yourself the same way you would take care of, help and be good to someone you loved and valued.

I read this and began to think how important it is for me to take care of myself. Eating right and working out may seem like a selfish endeavor, but in reality it is more than just about me. I have to take care of myself, because there are others who are depending on me, who love me. Not eating right and not working out could be some of the most selfish things I could do.

img_0553Today, I was thinking about wedding vows. I have been married over 13 years, and wedding vows are not something I usually tend to think about. I guess if you live the vows, there is no reason to consciously think about them. But I was thinking about them today. A traditional wedding vow is fairly simple: “I am going to be there regardless of what might happen.” It is really a basic pledge to stick with it, but maybe it is missing something. Maybe our vows should include, “I am going to do everything in my power to make sure I am there for you. That means I am going to eat healthy, workout, do everything I possibly can to ensure the success of our union. I’m not going to give up on you or myself. I am going to be there, for you, for our family, for those that depend on us.” This is not what I said all those years ago, but I probably should have. But then again, it is not what I said back then that really matters, it is my everyday actions that count.

What are the things that are slowly killing you? Are you aware of it? Are you doing something about it? It is not just about you. The ramifications of your actions are felt by those who love you, by those who depend on you.

Battling Hills, Fighting Weakness

There are five hills on my usual running route. Four of them are only 100-200 meters in length with a moderate incline. When I get to these hills, I attack. I pick up my pace and run them as fast as I can. The fifth hill is different. It is about four times longer and has just a slight, barely noticeable incline. This hill is deceptive. It is stealthy. The end isn’t visible at the beginning. Running up this hill, I find that my intensity wavers. My focus will drift, and soon I will notice my pace has slowed down.

There are some battles that are easily won. They are not drawn out, and the damage is minimal. Then there are some battles that have no end in sight. They drag on and the attrition begins to affect the mind. The long drawn out battles are dangerous as the intensity wavers.

We don’t decide to be weak. We allow it to creep into our lives. We justify small decisions without considering the long-term consequences. In his book, Discipline Equals Freedom, Jocko Willink explains this well:

We are defeated one tiny, seemingly insignificant surrender at a time that chips away at who we should really be. It isn’t that you wake up one day and decide that’s it: I am going to be weak. No. It is a slow incremental process. It chips away at our will- it chips away at our discipline. We sleep in a little later. We miss a workout, then another. We start to eat what we shouldn’t eat and drink what we shouldn’t drink. And, without realizing it- one day, you wake up and you become something that you never would have allowed.

That one hill is a reminder to be ever vigilant. It reminds me that without a constant focus on every action, I am susceptible to allowing weakness to creep into my life. Some of those choices may seem miniscule, a mere drop in the water. But who is to know the lasting ramifications they can have? Who is to say that slight detour doesn’t take you along a path just slightly different than the one you should be on? As Miyamoto Musashi said, “There is no end to the path of discipline.”

Act Now

“And even if thou art pained because thou art not doing some particular thing which seems to thee to be right, why dost thou not rather act than complain?” -Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

You know, it is never too late to correct your course. You know the right thing to do. Not doing it gives you pain. Change the direction of your life. You are not being dealt a harsh blow. Complaining about it changes nothing. Remove the pain by doing the right thing. Action always trump wishes. Doing the right thing is a supreme act.

If it is precious, then protect it.

Today, I find myself wanting to waste time. [Even writing that first sentence was a chore.] I wanted to write over the weekend, but I never got around to doing it. I slept in both weekend days. The residual effects of last week’s flu are still lingering, and the idea of sleeping in seemed to be a good use of my time.

I did not have a plan for the weekend. I did read a lot (started Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules of Life), but I didn’t write. I completed many items on my to-do list, except the one I deemed most important. I now have a backlog of handwritten stories. All I needed to do is type them up. And now these stories, if I don’t hurry and get them completed, will become in my mind less relevant. If they don’t get finished, they will most likely get shelved. Possibly, permanently.

The weekend went by quickly, but I had the same amount of time as everyone else. I didn’t make the best use of it. There was no sense of urgency. This reminds me of Seneca’s Letter on the Shortness of Life (XLIX):

In other years time did not seem to me to go swiftly; now, it seems fast beyond belief, because I feel that the finish-line is moving closer to me, or it may be that I have begun to take heed and reckon up my losses.

When I consider the things I should have done but did not do, time is indeed moving swiftly. This is a lesson to make the most of the time alotted to us. This is a lesson to not waste time, a lesson to not let it slip away carelessly. If time is truly precious, then it is our duty to protect it. Seneca goes on to write:

Show me that the good in life does not depend upon life’s length, but upon the use we make of it; also, that it is possible, or rather usual, for a man who has lived long to have lived too little.

Your Best Personal Defense

When are you most vulnerable to attack?

I spend much of my time trying to prepare my personal defenses. I want to actively put myself into position where a personal attack against me is not possible.That means I need to be physically strong, mentally strong, and of course spiritually strong. Compromising your character is out of the question. Your name, which is your most valuable asset, has to be impregnable.

When am I my weakest? When am I most easily attacked? When does the enemy, all those outside influences seeking to do you harm, have the greatest opportunity to strike. The enemy attacks when your mind is at it weakest.

Marcus Aurelius said, “You have power of your mind – not outside events. Realize this and you will find strength.” You are weakest, when you lose control over your mind. When are you susceptible to losing that control? It is when you are angry. It is hard to be angry and think straight. It is hard to make rational decisions in anger. This is when you are at your weakest. This is when you are vulnerable to attack. Remember your character is on the line. Your name is on the line. Hold the line! Do not become a victim of your own stupidity.

My son:

A city breached and left defenseless are those who do not control their temper. -Proverbs 25:28

Dreaming of His Future

From the day he was born, it was easy to imagine all the things he might do in life. I could see his athletic prowess on the field of play, and it didn’t even matter what field he was playing on. It didn’t matter if he still hadn’t taken his first step. The idea of him not liking sports never entered the picture of my imagination. The same imagination that envisioned a young Einstein with a certain love for reading the classics. At his earliest age, I imagined endless possibilities of what his future would bring.

But in the end, does it really matter? Who cares what sport he chooses, if he even chooses one. I hope he does, and then my hope is that he gives it everything he’s got. Along the lines of academics, my wish is that he does the best he can. I actually don’t care which direction his future goes, as long as he has just one thing. What would make me really happy about his future?

My son, if your heart is wise, my heart will also rejoice. -Proverbs 23:15

 


Later this week I hope to post my thoughts on being sick. That’s where I have been the last 6 days.

A Key to Wisdom

Knowledge can be passed on. So can understanding. You can be smart, and be without wisdom. I wish I could give you wisdom, but I cannot. You have to find it for yourself. It will not come to you overnight. It is a process. A very long, arduous process. One, that hopefully you will be striving for your whole life.

Though I can’t give you wisdom, I can give you a tip. It is a key to unlocking this door. Listen to those who are wise. Let them be your teachers. Find the ones that are on the right path and learn from them.

My son:

Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may eventually be wise. -Proverbs 19:20

Let It Go

Last Monday, I wrote about the way we respond to others. Now let us take it a step farther. What is your reaction to an offense? Do you have the ability to let it go? Or, do you let it fester? Maybe you vent a little to a sympathetic friend about this injustice?

I was watching a show with Alec last weekend, and he heard the the word humble. He asked what it meant. My response was the opposite of pride, which led me to explain what pride meant. Being humble is a good thing. You are less likely to be offended if you are humble.

We should not let our pride interfere with our relationships. Where is the need for conflict resolution if we prevent the conflict? Sometimes we just need to take a step back and breathe. Hey, let it go.

Whoever overlooks an offense fosters friendship, but whoever gossips separates very friends. -Proverbs 17:9

Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

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Do you ever read a book that just seems magical? I’m not speaking about magic in a book, but the words, the content, the meanings all seem magical. When I read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, that was what I experienced magic.

Once all of my self was overcome and had died, once every desire and every urge was silent in the heart, then the ultimate part of me had to awake, the innermost of my being, which is no longer my self, the great secret.

When I was young, I was very passionate about living a “holy” life. I had thoughts of becoming a missionary. I wanted to run away from the things of this world and live in obscurity in the most meager way. Reflecting back on it, I think part of me was scared and lost. I wasn’t ready for the great, big world and instead wanted to seclude myself in the smallest part of it I could find.

In my 20’s and 30’s, my eyes  were opened up to the ways of the world. I left the part of me that wanted to live as an ascetic behind. I began to live for pleasure. The things I consumed were not because I needed it, but because I wanted it. It was during this time, I allowed the undesirable things to slowly creep into my life. The darkness began to seep into my soul and threatened to corrupt the things I once held precious. During this time, I was still trying to escape. The memories of my youth haunted me. I began to live in the past, dulled in the present, and blind to the future.

Then a time came when those worldly things were no longer important. They began to lose their luster. Food became less about pleasing my belly, and more about fueling my body. Alcohol no longer became a tool of escape to dull the senses. My mind and my body even started to reject the idea of laziness. Those things of the world now seem vain and fleeting. Worthless.

This is how it is when Siddhartha has a goal, a resolution. Siddhartha does nothing, he waits, he thinks, he fasts, but he passes through the things of the world like a rock through water, without doing anything, without stirring; he is drawn, he lets himself fall. His goal attracts him, because he doesn’t let anything enter his soul which might oppose the goal.

img_0471As I move into this next stage of my life, I am also drawn to a goal. I am attracted by the things which are greater than myself. I am striving toward that which goes beyond this lifetime.

Even with him, even with your great teacher, I prefer the thing over the words, place more importance on his acts and life than on his speeches, more on the gesture of his hand than his opinions. Not in his speech, not in his thoughts, I see his greatness, only in his actions, in his life.

Check Your Response

I know I have done it. Chances are so have you.

Someone is in a mood, and you are the next target. He is coming at you at you and likely has the intention of provoking an argument. He is not happy. He doesn’t want to be the only one wallowing in the muck. He wants you there right there by his side.

It could be he is not even looking for a fight. It could just be a misunderstanding. Some poor communication, bad timing, or a feeble attempt at humor that went a bit sideways.

It is easy to get caught in the trap. Maybe you are in a bad mood yourself, and this is what you have been waiting for. Don’t take the bait. You could end up in an argument you may soon regret. Once you let those words fly, you cannot get them back. Depending on your environment, your upcoming spat could have a negative impact on others.

There is another choice. There is a different path. Choose that one and immediately spot the difference.

A mild answer turns back wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. -Proverbs 15:1


 

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