Archive for September, 2008

Why I Love the East Coast

Maybe the title of this is misleading. I do not love the east coast. But I did grow up there, and therefore a certain element of sarcastic and cynical humor has been ingrained in me, and it’s not my fault. Just last night, I was lying in bed and picked up the “Four Agreements”- which was left for me to read by a friend recently going through a new age self help phase (don’t worry- he has only been in the phase for three weeks, so not quite long enough for an intervention). I read a brief summary of the agreements and put the book down.

“I have a problem with this kind of philosophy.” I remarked to my boyfriend. He looked up from his read.

“Why?” he asked. After all, I know he has been known to subscribe to such wholesome ideas as presented in the “Four Agreements” in the past.

“It’s just not funny.” I tell him. “There is just no room for humor.”

“Hmmm, maybe things could be funny, but there doesn’t seem to be an allowance for sarcastic humor. You could still have humor though.” he offers, and turns back to his book.

In my mind: humor = sarcastic humor. There is no in between. So if there is no allowance for sarcastic humor in that life philosophy, then my logical conclusion is that the philosophy is flawed, and is not funny.

This same friend who lent me the book is very serious about it. Another mutual friend of ours (who is, incidentally, also from the East Coast) has the Four Agreements as well, but she keeps it in her bathroom and “only reads it when she’s pooping”. Our “enlightened” friend was aghast at this. This book, which seemingly changed his life and was the catalyst for “enlightenment”, is only read by her while shitting. He fails to see the humor in this. Probably because there is no room for humor here.

Anyway, all this pontificating about the East Coast was triggered the other day while riding on the Max, which is our city’s light rail system. I was on a line that was eventually destined for the airport, and there was this early 20ish looking kid on the train, clutching his luggage and looking panicked. He was very fresh faced, maybe even too much so for early 20’s, he might have dipped into late teens, as he had this look about him that said he’d never been to a bar. Eventually somebody noticed how panicked he looked, and because this is Portland and not the East Coast, this somebody asked him if he was allright.

“I may be about to miss my plane!” he stammers helplessly and looks furtively at his watch. Somebody else leaps to attention.

“What time is your flight?” this concerned human queries. It’s in an hour and fifteen minutes from now.

“No problem.” another concerned human pipes in from a few seats down. “This train will be there in about forty five minutes, you’ll have just enough time.”

“Are you checked in yet?” another extremely concerned human chimes in from a few seats in the other direction.

“No!” exclaims the panic stricken young man. I have to admit, the situation looks grim.

“It’ll be ok.” the original concerned human says, “your plane is probably delayed anyway.”

“Yeah, definitely,” someone else chimes in. “Besides you’ll be there with time to spare.”

Now I am usually one to shut out all conversation on public transportation. But I don’t know whether it was my mood, or what, but I decide to contribute to the meaningless banter and overhelpful atmosphere with a few inane comments of my own.

“Where are you flying?” I offer. The answer is Phoenix. I keep going inanely, “oh, don’t worry, my brother lives there so I fly there a lot. There are tons of flights leaving all the time, so if you miss this one, they’ll put you on another one no problem.”

He doesn’t look convinced at all. Finally, the voice of reason comes in the way of another passenger who has been formerly silent. He is a mid fiftyish man with a busy mustache and dark hair.

“Excuse me.” he says, in a thick New York accent. “Because I’m from the East Coast, I can’t help but present the other, and likely true, side of this situation. You’re going to miss the goddamn flight- that much is certain. You’re not going to get on any other flights, because they’re going to dick you around at the airport. You’ll spend four hours walking from desk to desk from gate to gate, and then you’ll sleep sitting upright in a chair that’s so goddamn uncomfortable. It will be the start of many years of recurring and incurable back problems. When you finally do get put on a flight, you will be flanked by a screaming baby on one side and an obese woman who hasn’t brushed her teeth in days.” he pauses, and I am laughing.

“Just sayin’.” he said, “Just thought I’d present another side to the story.” The panicked kid is kind of laughing at this point too, and everybody feels better. See? A little sarcastic humor goes a long way.

The next time I see my “enlightened” friend and he tries to loan me another book that will also cause me to be enlightened, I am going to tell him that if there is no sarcastic humor in enlightenment, then there is no me in enlightenment.

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Over the years I have tried on numerous occasions to get in shape and lose weight. Each time was a collasal failure due to my tendency to completely overindulge in everything, and my initial overzealousness would end up doing me in right away as I rushed into an intensive boot camp style of exercise combined with overwhelming restrictions on my diet. Often, I would successfully lose 5 pounds and then feel skinny, so I would resume my normal eating habits right away. Then gain 10 pounds. You get the idea.

I would kick off each “diet” the same way. Feeling morose about my appearance, I would head to the grocery store and purchase some kind of glossy fitness magazine. You know, the kind the says “Lose 8 pounds this month!” and “Drop a dress size in 2 weeks!” on the cover. The idea is that simply by purchasing these magazines, you are being proactive about the situation. Then I would fill up my cart with what I perceived to be “health food”: almonds and veggies and brown rice and tofu and organic cheesy poofs. The latter is still cheesy poofs for all intents and purposes, disguised in more subdued packaging and with less Red # 40. Then I would stock my kitchen, eat a measly salad, and head to the gym where I went through the motions on the elliptical trainer for as long as I could possibly stand.

After a few days of this regime I would be extremely weary of being on my “diet”. I would rather hang myself than get on the elliptical trainer, and would head out to the bar, the glossy fitness mag tossed in the recycle bin or stuffed in a corner. Visits to the gym eventually tapered off completely.

Another interesting facet of this process was that I seemed to fail to grasp an important concept- eating in moderation. I assumed incorrectly that since I was eating organic cheesy poofs and almonds, that I could eat as much as possible and it wouldn’t “count”. I also gave myself a free pass to eat whatever I wanted each time I successfully completed a workout. Case in point: yoga class. For nearly a year, I attended a yoga class with my good friend Beth. Immediatly after the class, we would head across the street to a thai restaurant and consume a giant vat of Pad Thai. Then we would move our little party next door to the bar, where I would drink 5 beers. It didn’t matter, because I had “worked out”. Never mind that hatha yoga practically burns the same amount of calories as sleeping! The end result was that I became fatter and more flexible. Awesome.

An especially fond weight loss memory of mine is when I was in my mid 20’s and having just moved to a new city, was spending a lot of evenings drinking beer and socializing with new friends. I must’ve been consuming a ridiculous amount of beer throughout my escapades around town, because when I decided to switch to light beer, I lost 5 pounds within a few months with no other dietary changes. If you think about it, it makes sense, if I drank 5 beers a night, that was a caloric savings of 250 calories/day. Since you need to cut out 3500 to lose a pound- I would lose about a pound every 15 days with this “diet”.

So I’m not really sure what happened. I don’t know what clicked in my brain that suddenly gripped me with the desire to get in shape. I don’t know how I managed to educate myself about portion control. I’m still not sure how all that weight came off and who this person is that I see in the mirror lately. But here I am, thirty years of age and completely addicted to exercise.

I am so addicted to exercise, that I work out six days a week, sometimes seven. I still go to yoga class, but I also go to spin class, strength training class, play on a soccer team, play tennis, swim a mile at least once a week, run, attend pilates at 6:30 in the morning. I still buy the glossy fitness magazines, but now I actually do the suggested workouts listed inside. I can do regular push ups like a man. I can hold side plank for several minutes without collapsing. I will run 5 miles during my lunch break at work, and horseback ride bareback all evening. I treat my body like I am in boot camp. If I am hungover, I force myself to run in the hot sun and sweat out the booze. It’s as if I am a college hockey player caught drinking too much the night before, and I am also my own coach who makes me run the morning after. I answer to myself, and only myself, and somehow myself keeps insisting that I keep up this regimen. And keep it up I have, for nearly 2 years now. I am gripped by a terrifying and irrational fear that if I miss one workout, that will be it for me and all those pounds will return instantly.

I’m not trying to pat myself on the back here, I am just completely amazed by my self discipline. Every now and then it strikes me. I wonder, how long can I possibly keep this up? My new muscles are demanding. They want attention, all the time. And I can’t believe I spent the good part of my 20’s, when my youth was all aglow, overweight and sucking down way too many microbrews. Hey, better late than never.

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