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  • Doing things when no one else is

    I have to admit that I get off on doing things at times when few others are. Going for a run 10PM. Working late on Fridays. Writing in the wee hours of the morning. I’ve come up with this explanation that there’s less interference in the air late at night (so my body and brain functions better), but since I don’t have any science to prove that, I’ll just say it feels better to do things (when) you’re not supposed to.

    There’s an old Boston Marathon training motto by Tom Fleming that goes, “Somewhere in the world someone is training when you are not. When you race him, he will win.” That’s terrifying because it feels like whatever you do is never enough. At the same time, it’s motivating. The night is my secret time to improve my skills when everyone else is out of commission. People who get up really early in the morning probably feel the same way. It's funny how people aspire to be morning people, but never the other way around. Just be you (which is ironically, probably one of the hardest things you'll ever have to do).

    I’ve learned not to be bound by constraints on when most people feel like are the right times to do certain activities. Hit the weights late at night, drink coffee at midnight and have sex on your lunch break (but maybe not at work). Don’t apologize for who you are and when feels like the right time to do something, whether it’s something small or a major life decision. People will judge. But at least you aren’t wasting your energy trying to live up to such trivial social norms.

  • Lessons from summer camp: Food appreciation

    Meals at Camp Grounded were another well thought out part of the weekend. Everything we ate (with maybe the exception of campfire s’mores) was local or organic with the nutrients needed to keep us going. Most of the time we ate family-style in a classic summer camp cafeteria (minus the fear of awful waffles) with sing-a-longs to conclude each sitting. However, there was one meal that stood out from the rest because it was such a novel experience.

    Picture a table on a grass field long enough to seat 250 people facing one another. Everyone is dressed in white and tea light candles held in large pieces of wood adorn the tabletops. At this point, feel free to make some jokes about joining a cult. All you can hear are birds conversing, a soft breeze moving through the trees and melodic piano music. As you take your seat, you notice a card on the table explaining this is a silent meal with the intention to make it more mindful. It encourages you to fully taste and savor what your senses interpret. It asks you to consider all the things that needed to happen to make this meal possible. The creation of the universe, a habitable planet that supports growth, the transport of that food and the final preparation.

    Food is served and you commence eating. You look at your neighbor, but the eye contact does not have a motive. It’s natural. You hear utensils clinking as people cut their food. You figure you may as give this a shot. No other meal you’ve ever had is quite like this and the only thing you can compare it to is a silent family dinner where no one is talking to you because you did something really wrong. Only it’s not awkward and you don’t feel bad. You enjoy sitting there and not jamming food down your throat to move on to the next activity, multitask with a smartphone/television, or engage in the mundane small talk that ordinarily happens when you are sitting next to strangers.

    You chew more than usual and let the textures and flavors rest on your tongue. The chicken is delightfully crisp on the outside and moist inside. The greens produce a peppery sensation for your tastebuds if you give them the chance. The risotto is perfect comfort food to line your stomach and leave you feeling satisfied. You realize people are right when they say the food tastes better when you take the time to appreciate it. Eventually the silence is broken and you speak to your neighbors. You might not have any photos, but these memories are not likely to fade anytime soon.

    This meal changed me. I had already been trying to give more of my meals more focus because most of the time I was trying to do something else to entertain myself or look busy in front of other people. It may not have been my intention, but by doing so I was saying that the food wasn’t enough. In a way, that was disrespectful. In a way, I was missing out on so much by not giving it the attention it deserved.

    Since Camp Grounded, I’ve had many more meals where I just ate and did nothing else. Even in good company and conversation, I remind myself to check in with my senses. The urge to do other things is still there and I’m not perfect, but I am much improved. Eating a meal doesn’t take very long, so why rush through it? I hope this is one habit I can continue to develop. I needed that silent meal to get me there.

  • Lessons from summer camp: There are no shoulds

    Last weekend I journeyed to Camp Grounded. There’s so much I want to tell you about the experience and some of it I just want to keep between camp friends, but one thing I will share are takeaways I believe can help people.

    Along with no digital technology, not knowing anyone’s real name, age, job or what time it was, one of the things we tried to avoid saying is the word should. It’s difficult to do because we rely on the word to guide us daily, but I guess I’ve realized I don’t want it to be a part of my vocabulary anymore. I don’t think I need it.

    We’re often evaluating what we should be doing but I think that just makes us anxious. What should we have accomplished at this point in our lives? Should we be married by now? Where should we be living and in what kind of living situation? It’s so constrictive. 

    It even infiltrates our smaller decisions. We should call our parents. We should visit friends in other cities. It’s all such a guilt trip and you have the opportunity to think of it in an entirely different way.

    What if there were only things you could do? You could pursue your dream job and it’ll feel amazing to be inspired about your work. You could get married because you really love someone and know they’re the one for you. You could call your mom because it might make her day and you could choose to visit your friend 3,000 miles away because it’s been far too long since you laughed hysterically together. See the difference?

    Shoulds often make us feel bad. Perhaps they guide us on a set path or align with social norms, but that isn’t what everyone needs. Coulds inspire intention, possibility and opportunity.

    Try eliminating should from your life and see what happens. There aren’t really any shoulds, only coulds.

  • Let me be

    I’ve made a lot of progress in disconnecting to preserve my sanity. From what I observe, I make more of an effort than most people because I don’t like always being connected. I'm not saying everyone should live like I do, but the constant obligation to be connected stresses me out and makes me anxious. I never consented to that.

    Currently I…

    Don’t sleep with my phone in my bedroom.

    Don’t use any devices while working out.

    Turn off all push notifications.

    Often go into airplane mode or turn my phone off completely to get things done.

    Don’t text back someone immediately unless it’s urgent or I'm really available.

    Don’t use the mobile apps for many sites I use (Facebook, etc).

    I hope to someday...

    Not check any devices before showering, having breakfast and writing something.

    Stop eating in front of screens and take the time to enjoy my food.

    Only check email and social media at two designated times per day.

    It’s still not enough though. That’s why I’m headed to rehab at Camp Grounded.