Difficult Question

If you’ve not had a hitting-the-bottom moment yet, ask yourself a difficult question: What’s the price of not changing? Dying of a heart attack? An estrangement from your family? Forty more pounds? There are very real consequences to all of our actions. You can also take a personal inventory of what negative effects your current behavior has created (high blood pressure, boredom, shame, self-loathing, exhaustion). Have the courage to tell yourself the truth about the current and future consequences of your behavior. Do it not to beat yourself up, but to acknowledge to yourself that you’re really ready to change.

“This Year I Will” by M.J. Ryan

In some ways, I feel like this is building off of my previous blog post. I mentioned how life’s trajectory is never stationary–things are always accelerating towards either a positive or negative future.

So today, I thought I’d take a moment to look at the price of the status quo and the trajectory I’m currently on. I know M.J. Ryan calls it “the price of not changing” rather than “the price of the status quo.” A Landmark course I did last year used the phrase “resistance leads to persistence.” In a similar spirit, I’m writing this blog post not to define problems that need to be solved, but rather to acknowledge where I am at right now and the impact of my current trajectory.

Physically, I have not been taking great care of my health. This year I played volleyball for the regular indoor season with both the VGVA and a work team at Volleyball BC, dropped in for grass and beach volleyball 3 times during the summer, played in a Spring volleyball tournament, and starting dropping in at both badminton and recreational volleyball again. However, at the same time, I have not been running, I stopped going to the gym regularly, I didn’t make or eat my meal prep regularly, and I felt like my age was catching up to me.

When I was a kid, I was much more overweight, and I was not at all athletic. My Mom got me to join the jogging club in elementary school to try to keep my health in check. When I started, I couldn’t even run 100 m without having to stop to catch my breath. I remember the first time the club went for a run at another school, it was more than I thought that I could handle and by the time I was heading back to the finish line, I was in tears and my Mom had to run beside me to encourage me to finish it.

I no longer have the same struggles with running. 20 years of practice later, I’ve completed a marathon and multiple 5 km, 10 km, and half-marathon races. But I don’t believe things are static. Just as I was able to increase my capacity to do cardio, I fear that I will lose the capacity that I’ve built up if I stop running.

Running also presents the only real form of exercise that seems to really elevate my heart rate. Although volleyball and badminton keep me active, they rarely raise my heart rate significantly. Perhaps that means I’m just not trying enough in my other sports, but either way, I should try to ensure I’m keeping my heart healthy.

Both my lack of running and going to the gym appear to be weakening my discipline. When I’m doing them regularly, I find that I will still go for a run even when I’m sick. But now that I’ve fallen off the wagon, it’s hard to muster up the discipline to exercise at all.

And whereas running is usually free, I do have a gym membership that I pay for even when I’m not using the gym. It feels like a waste of money. But additionally, I’ve been grandparented into a cheaper gym plan, so if I cancel my gym membership for now, if/when I rejoin I’ll likely have to pay a substantially higher rate.

And more opportunity cost when it comes to the gym–I’m getting older. It’s harder to gain and maintain muscle as we age, so I’m afraid that if I’m not actively working towards this goal now, it will just be a larger mountain for me to scale in the future. And I’m also worried that I’ll be more prone to injury along the way.

But I also realize that in doing all this exercise (and also because of the stress that I’ll discuss later), my muscles are getting tighter. This makes me further prone to injury, leaves me feeling older, and makes some things such as yoga, squats, and deadlifts difficult to pursue–all of which proceed to further worsen my health.

Aside from exercise, my eating has also been bad. My fasting blood glucose results back at UBC first revealed that I was prediabetic. Diabetes carries a plethora of complications, such as nerve damage, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The bad habits that led to my high blood sugar will probably get harder to break over time as I continue to eat my sweets and other carbs. Additionally, at least for me, I find myself tempted when I see other people eating. I would imagine I’m encouraging other people to eat with similar bad habits just the same.

On top of that, I spend a crazy amount of money on eating out. Food is no longer just about nourishment for me. I use food for pleasure. I use food for socializing. I use food for numbing. So not only do I have a bad relationship with food, but I’m also using a lot of money where I could be using it better elsewhere. And because I’m eating out so often, I’m never getting better at cooking so I have a stronger desire to eat out where the food tastes better.

Not preparing my own food also often means I’m unaware of what I’m eating (On what antibiotics was this meat raised? How much sugar is in this sushi rice? Were trans-fats produced in the cooking of this oil?) and the environmental impact of my food. This means I often spend a lot of money on supplements and have less control over my weight.

I can’t remember being comfortable with my weight, which has prevented me from doing some things I enjoy such as swimming. It’s not great for my self-esteem, and I’ve been forever conflicted on whether it’s better to address my weight or to address the thoughts I have about my weight.

Which brings me to mental health. Similarly, I can’t say this has ever been my forte, but this year was particularly trying for me. I haven’t been taking good care of myself, and it’s really been showing.

Stress caught up with me at the end of 2018, but it continued well into this year. Ranging from multi-week headaches to multi-month periods of passing food as if I have food poisoning, the stress has had a big impact on my body. It’s also been pretty costly as I’ve tried various things with different doctors and acupunctures to try to address it.

Probably related to my stress, my sleeping appeared to get worse this year. I became more aware to issues associated with lack of sleep after reading Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep this year. Lack of sleep can lead to my having mood swings, my being quick to anger, and my lack of energy, which have appeared in both my work and personal life. It can also lead to other issues such as cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

Lack of sleep can also contribute to depression and anxiety, both of which I struggled with a lot this year. These can decrease my motivation to work towards my goals, decrease my capacity to cope with change, and contribute to my feeling stuck in my suffering (where I’m either sad about something in the past, or worried about what the future may hold). It also can lead me to withdraw from my activities, disconnect from the people in my life, and suppress/numb my emotions.

When I’m caught up in this state, I’m often lacking self-awareness, self-esteem/confidence, and a sense of control. I usually perceive things to be hopeless, myself to be not good enough, and other people to not like me. These perceptions often have me victimizing myself, feeling alone, and feeling like the world is out to get me. This just leads to my depression and anxiety continuously getting worse as I further isolate myself. It also impacts the people around me, as I can quickly dampen the mood around me (which then also further contributes to the spiral).

In a lot of these conversations I have with myself, I position myself as being powerless and not having responsibility. I also blame other people or situations for the circumstances I find myself in. This leads me to feeling stuck, which further contributes to my stress. It means I’m not motivated to share, ask, or otherwise converse with other people, which also leaves me feeling stuck and alone.

Every successful person I have heard of has done the best he could with the conditions as he found them, and not waited until next year to be better.

E.W. Howe

So I can’t say that I’m happy about the path I’ve created for myself. But I this is where I’m at. It was the best I could do at the time with the options that I saw for myself.

But that doesn’t mean next year I can’t create something new for myself.

Looking at the impact of how things are now and the future that will lead to, it leaves me more motivated to create something new. So here’s to 2020. I’m looking forward to seeing what I’ll be able to accomplish in this new year.

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