Growth Is Painful

I often write about how life is tough. Of course it is, right? Where would the challenge of life be, without the constant obstacles that consume our daily lives. If everything was handed to us on a silver platter, we’d get slow and lazy and never reach for the stars. With that thought in mind, it becomes paramount that we meet those challenges head on. There really is no other solution.

Mandy Hale once said, “Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.” Powerful words. Like with most quotes, the meaning behind the words are certainly up for interpretation, but the obvious meaning here is that life in general and all its challenges WILL hurt; but not quite as much as staying rooted in that pain without trying to move forward.

The only thing worse than working hard your entire life and not having it pan out is having it pan out and then it all gets torn out from under you. But those challenges aren’t meant to break you; they are meant to help you grow stronger. Sometimes we are living a situation that’s toxic to us, even when we don’t realize it. Some people I know personally, are even in a life that makes them unhappy, yet they persevere in that life.

And why do we do this? Usually it’s because we’ve become so accustomed to the lifestyle we’ve become entrenched into that we’re almost frightened to move on to something that could potentially be better for us.

So let that strength grow. If you’re willing to step up and fight, you’d be surprised how far you can reach. It won’t always be easy, but who ever said life was meant to be easy, right?

In reading some things I previously wrote, I was reminded of this tonight. Sometimes the effort required to fight through all these challenges seems overwhelming. I hate to be THAT guy and quote Bruce Lee, but he once said something that significantly applies to this. He once said, “Do not pray for an easy life.pray for the strength to endure a difficult one.”

Remembering What’s Important

I remember attending a local college, back in New Brunswick in 1996. I was young, naive and foolishly thought that I should take a year off from studying before going off to college. My thinking was to work and accumulate some money before diving headlong into more schooling. My family disagreed.

Being as that I was so young and naive at the time, I went along with it, but I wouldn’t discover until years later that I could have, and should have followed my instinct and taken a break. I was studying computer programming and burned out in my second year.

Doesn’t sound much like me. Even now, as I write it out it doesn’t seem like something I would allow to happen. But it happens to the best of us, sometimes.

I was reminded of this today because I was cleaning out some old stuff in my home office and came across something I had printed out during my first year of college. Once I read it, I couldn’t believe that I had managed to keep it for 23 years. But I thought I would share it here, as it allows for an important message about life.

Some of you may have heard this story before, but here it is:

A professor stood in front of his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar slightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He then asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous YES.

The professor then produced two bottles of beer from under the table and poured their entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

“Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things such as family, your children, your health, your friends and your favourite passions. And if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else, the small stuff. If you were to put the sand into the jar first, there would be no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.”

It’s important to pay attention to the things in your life that are critical to your happiness. Spend time with your spouse and children. Visit with your parents. Take time for your health. Treat yourself to dinner. Play another 18 holes.

Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

One of the professor’s students raiser her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled and said, “I’m glad you asked that. The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of beer with friends or family.”

Less Is More…

We live in a world obsessed with physical possession. Most households pride themselves on the acquisition of personal belongings and the accumulation of wealth. I’m not sure what that says about modern society as a whole, but it’s certainly a misguided way to live.

Buddhism does speak about the possession of material goods, to an extent. The Four Noble Truths go into some detail about how humanity’s suffering is often rooted in our cravings and desires. People often tend to try and fill the emptiness in their own lives through material possessions. This is often a temporary fix, which continues to snowball as we keep trying to fill the void in one’s life. Almost like an addiction that can never be fully satisfied.

So what can be done to counteract these issues? There is a lifestyle known as minimalism. This style of life describes living with less, and ridding oneself with excess belongings. On the whole, minimalist living involves a bit more than just getting rid of stuff, but it can lend a number of positive benefits to your life.

According to an article published by Money Under 30, they describe getting rid of possessions using the “90/90” rule. The article states: “Look at a possession. Pick something. Anything. Have you used that item in the last 90 days? If you haven’t, will you use it in the next 90? If not, then it’s okay to let go.” Here’s the article, if you want to give it a look (https://www.moneyunder30.com/minimalist-living). It contains a lot of the benefits behind living with less.

Consider the following; if you’ve eliminated a quantity of your possessions that you no longer use, you also won’t need a residence quite as large or expensive. The financial gains can be many. And budgeting the overall income of your household will become easier as well.

There are some areas where you can’t necessarily live with less. For example, buying food in bulk can often reduce the overall cost of groceries and can help save on fuel and resources for repeated outings.

True minimalism usually requires a level of discipline that most people can’t adhere to. For example, true minimalists don’t own television sets or vehicles. This isn’t always a practical reality for most people. But if you’re able to dig through your stuff and find things that you completely forgot you had, maybe it’s time to let it go.

Technology becomes a catch-22 for such a lifestyle. Less social media becomes an important factor in reducing the stress in your life. But having books and movies digitized, such as e-books, can be extremely helpful in reducing the clutter within your household.

At the end of the day, minimalism isn’t for everyone. But the thought came to me today as I sold a large piece of furniture that was cluttering my home. Living with less can definitely make you happier. As Marie Kondo would say, “The best way to find out what we truly need is to get rid of what we don’t.”

Like Riding A Bike Without A Seat…

Parenting is a challenge. Many often ask how humanity would actually develop, if our biological clocks didn’t motivate us to bear and raise children. They eat our food, destroy our belongings and burn through money without ever actually being the one to spend it! Our offspring are a living contradiction: they cost so much and require so much sacrifice, yet we can’t resist those full eyes looking up at us and saying they love us!

As I write this, my son is running around in circles. His energy reserves seem almost endless and I rarely understand how he functions at that level without passing out from exhaustion every night. But somehow he does.

A few weeks ago, he came into my bedroom and woke me. I explained to him that I was still sleeping and he needed to be quiet. His response was to smack me in the face. When I got angry and objected, his response was: “But daddy… that was quiet!” I couldn’t argue the point. He was quite right. He’s such a smart ass…

At four years old, it’s become quite the experience, watching him grow and develop his own personality and character. Contrary to popular belief, children won’t always be like their parents. Sure, they may have physical similarities and there may be SOME things they do like us, but they become their own person. Despite my wife and I being a bit more son the quiet side, he’s loud and full of life. He has his own attitude and personality, and my son has very little difficulty demonstrating that on a daily basis.

Despite the required sacrifices and how often he makes me angry, he also somehow melts my heart. With every time he rounds the corner and yells: “Kiss and hug for daddy!” or curls up next to me on the couch and cuddles up without a word, he somehow manages to make up for any transgression he commits throughout the day. His ability to disarm me is almost immeasurable.

Honestly, the only time he gears down and stays calm is once he’s fallen asleep. And getting him to bed is generally a full-contact sport akin to a heavy weight boxing match. But there’s nothing quite like the soothing calmness of seeing him peacefully sleeping… The quiet before the storm of his waking moment the following morning.

Parenting is almost like trying to learn to ride a bike without a seat. It’s not so difficult, once you find your balance and learn to peddle just right. But the moment you relax your guard and sit back, you’ll deal with the consequences of planting yourself painfully. Children are much the same; it’s all fun and games until you turn your back on them. Or until they go quiet. That’s when you know they’re up to something! ☯

Comfort Is Key

I often take stock of how people behave when out in public. For the most part, the general population goes about its business much in the same way as you’d expect; with a sense of ignorant detachment of their surroundings.

For the most part, people don’t make eye contact and don’t interact with the world around them. At least not anymore. They focus on getting from point “A” to point “B” and often spend most of that time with their eyes down at the screen of their smart device.

But there’s one aspect of daily life that the general population can’t ignore: nature! I was out getting some groceries earlier, when a light rain began to fall (it has since turned into a strong thunderstorm and I’m praying that I complete this post before power goes out). It blew my mind how quickly people began to move, run, cover their heads and make a wonderful assortment of “derpy” faces when a few light drops of water started falling.

I mean, come on… It’s water, people! We’re primarily composed of it, we drink litres of it everyday and we wash ourselves with it! But the light help us, if some of that water happens to fall from the sky as we walk outside.

I joke and make light of it, but the reality is that we take comfort as an expected norm in today’s society. Getting wet while walking outside is very obviously a discomfort. Human being often seek to take the Path of Least Resistance. That essentially means that as a general rule, most people will always seek out the easiest and most comfortable way to achieve any given result.

Creature comforts have become the norm and we react outwardly when that comfort is affected by ANY outside source. But a little discomfort can be good. We most often produce the best results when someone lights a fire under our keister. Almost comparable to how much work we generate on our own compared to when our supervisor is hovering about!

Don’t be afraid to step outside the norm, abandon your typical comfort and don’t be afraid to face unknown challenges. And should it start pouring, remember to take the time at some point in your life, to dance in the rain. ☯

Hurts So Good…

What does it mean to be in pain? Well, from a strictly medical perspective, pain is when our sensory receptors send a signal through our nerve fibres , all the way up to our brains. Then the brain interprets the signal as pain. The human body uses this signal as an avoidance reflex, meaning it’s telling you that whatever you’re doing is harming your body and should be stopped. (Although not everyone is quick enough to stop hurting themselves, sometimes)

From a Diabetes standpoint, we experience a wide variety of pain. Neuropathy, open wounds that are extremely slow to heal and pain prior to numbness from lack of circulation are simply a few. And certainly not the worst.

It’s not always bad. From a fitness standpoint, pain can be a positive thing. SOME pain is necessary in order to help the body sculpt and grow. The idea here is to know when enough is enough and to stop before serious damage can occur.

But there’s one form of pain that is largely ignored in most circumstances. I’m talking about emotional pain. When something affects us in a negative way, we feel a sort of pain that is often very hard to describe. For some, it’s an increased feeling of fatigue. For others, it can manifest itself in any number of nasty ways including but not limited to, becoming ill, nausea, depression, problems with the digestive tract and even alcoholism or substance abuse. The expression “this breaks my heart” stems from the fact that one usually feels some discomfort in the pit of their abdomen during emotional distress.

The important thing to remember is that what hurts in your heart can also affect your body. Although that sounds a bit cheesy, it’s quite accurate. Sometimes we need to look at the big picture and acknowledge that the pain is going to happen, and take steps to help deal with it as opposed to ignoring it.

Ultimately, pain helps us grow. In any way, shape or form, it allows us to learn an develop. After all, imagine if as an infant you put your hands on a hot stove and it didn’t hurt… You’d likely leave your hand there and keep playing and critically damage your tissues. But by feeling the pain, you learn that “Oops! It hurts to touch the stove. Better stay away!” Most forms of pain will teach you something.

So ask yourself, what is my emotional pain teaching me? Am I doing something wrong, or something I disagree with? Or is it simply a case of doing the right thing? That can also be painful sometimes. Just remember that in grand scheme of things, nothing lasts forever; not even pain. ☯

Meat My Friends, Veggies…

There’s nothing like a nice, thick, juicy t-bone steak, cooked to perfection on a grill. Nothing marks the beginning of summer quite like it! In fact, we had amazing steaks for my wife’s birthday. And if I do say so myself, they were delicious!

But it’s amazing how in the past couple of decades, an unspoken war against meat has taken place (or maybe it isn’t THAT unspoken if you follow social media). With the advent of all the new fitness and nutritional trends that have hit our societies in recent years, there’s been a push in favour of vegetarians and vegans.

Before I get too far into the fray, we should start by examining what the differences are between vegan and vegetarian.

A Vegetarian is defined as someone who does not eat meat, sometimes for moral or religious reasons, but most often for health reasons.

A Vegan is defined as someone who does not use or consume ANY animal product. This means that things like milk and cheese are off the menu as well. For the sake of this post, I’ll mostly stick to the term vegetarian.

So what are humans MEANT to eat? The reality is that most medical professionals agree that the human body is designed to be omnivorous. This means that we are designed to consume meat AND vegetables. Sorry to break it to you, vegetarians… Humans can and should eat meat.

According to an article published in Medical News Today, part of what allowed humans to gain an evolutionary advantage in prehistoric times may have been their consumption of meat. The increased amount of protein and energy may have been what contributed to the evolution of our complex brains and our overall evolution. And it is important to note that evolution takes place over hundreds of thousands of years. So we can’t turn back the clock on our bodies simply by cutting out meat.

A vegetarian diet can lend a certain number of health benefits. There have been studies linking a vegetarian diet to lower risk of cardiovascular disease. A vegetarian diet also contains higher levels of fibre and less fat.

Vegans are a bit more on the controversial side, as some studies have shown that being a vegan can actually be LESS healthy than a diet including meat. Although a vegan diet can also involve reducing certain cardiovascular risks and may contribute to a certain level of weight loss, a vegan diet lacks certain vitamins and minerals, such as Vitamin B12, which is usually found in eggs, fish and meat and is required for proper cell health.

According to an article posted by Independent, “A study conducted by the Medical University in Graz in Austria found that the vegetarian diet, as characterized by a low consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol, due to a higher intake of fruits, vegetables and whole grain products, appeared to carry elevated risks of cancer, allergies and mental health problems such as depression and anxiety.” Definite food for thought (see what I did there?) Here’s that article: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/vegetarians-are-less-healthy-and-have-a-lower-quality-of-life-than-meateaters-scientists-say-9236340.html

Before I close up, let’s examine this from a Diabetes perspective. Some studies have shown that a vegetarian diet can help better manage Type 1 Diabetes and in some cases, can help prevent Type 2 Diabetes. Since being vegetarian can help control weight and blood sugar levels as well as increase the body’s insulin response, it can certainly be helpful (as much as it breaks my heart to says so).

Any change in diet should definitely be done in consultation with your health practitioner and a qualified dietitian. As cute and trendy as being vegetarian or vegan sounds, there are a number of supplements and lifestyle changes you’ll have to make to allow this diet to work for you.

Bottom line is that the average person should be consuming small amounts of meat in combination with plenty of healthy vegetables and some carbohydrates. Also, meats such as poultry or fish are much better for you than red meat.

And last but not least, all of this is a lifestyle choice. Although some people are forced to be vegetarian due to health concerns, the vast majority CHOOSE to do so. And respecting someone’s choice is important. There are demonstrated benefits to both diets, so do everyone a solid and follow the simple idiom, You do you, and let me do me… Meaning that no one needs to hear that they’re murderers simply for consuming meat. ☯