Friday, June 24, 2016

The Things I'm Thankful For

I'm writing this mostly for myself. I've been writing a bunch about depression, the challenges of exercising, not eating nearly enough ice cream... and realized it paints a somewhat grim picture. For the most part my life is pretty awesome. You can just skim this list or not read it at all. You can instead look at videos of puppies tripping over things. Don't worry, they're mostly made of fluff and cuddles, and don't actually get injured.

  1. The people in my life - I'm listing this first because it's the most important thing. And I often forget it. Last night I saw a friend that I hadn't seen since New Years. Even though I don't drink anymore, we went out and had a good time just talking. He had a beer and I had a decaf coffee.

    Whenever we had hung out in the past, we would smoke pipe, drink scotch, and play game after game of Race for the Galaxy into the wee hours of the morning. I don't know anyone else as addicted to the game as him and me, so it sits untouched for months until the next time I see him.

    I've shared amazing experiences and have great stories involving just about everyone in my life that I care about. Late nights of impromptu music in my living room. Totally illegal swimming beneath cascading waterfalls. My sister giving birth to her amazing daughter in my home. Introducing dear friends of mine to one another and seeing them fall in love and get married. Looking for my adventurous brother on the streets of St. Petersburg at 4am, just hours before we're supposed to be on a plane. And of course countless hours of just sharing and talking.

    Everything I do really is meaningless without someone to share it with.

    And I really do forget this far too often.

  2. My health and fitness - Despite many years of partying, drinking, and bad decisions, I'm lucky enough to not have killed myself or done any lasting damage. And even though I've broken a bunch of fingers and toes and had a few bumps and strains along the way, I've never hurt myself too badly.

    Not for lack of trying though
    I complain (often) about races that I ran too slowly. Or that my ripped abs aren't ripped enough. Or that I can't arbitrarily double my exercise from the previous week without burning myself right the frig out. But the fact is that I'm blessed to be able to do what I do. And I'm in the best shape I've ever been in.

    My expectations seem to grow faster than my strength and endurance. That's kind of like winning a million dollars and being upset that it wasn't two million. Rather than appreciating what I have achieved, I often focus on the parts that I didn't feel I achieved enough.

    It's OK for me to be excited about the future. It's not OK for me to judge myself for not having gotten to that future yet. But when it comes down to it, I'm truly thankful for where I am today.

  3. Stability - This means having a job that lets me live comfortably. It means having a car that I don't have to worry will break down in the middle of nowhere. It means having a home that won't vanish if my luck changes. It means having a schedule that lets me pursue my missions and hobbies without any juggling.

    A lot of young folks will spend years chasing their dreams, whether it's to be a musician, an artist, famous vlogger, or champion warcrafter of worlds. Then one day they're 30, eating ramen out of a pot with an ice cream scooper on some stranger's hammock, and think, "dang, I could really go for some stability right about now."

    It's not glamorous, sure, but it's pretty freakin' awesome. It's as awesome as routine, another thing I'm super thankful for. It's great
    to have drive and gumption; but if your life doesn't have any structure, it's super hard to pursue your ambitions.

    So while I may daydream of backpacking the world as a bohemian spelunker, it wouldn't last. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with traveling or... spelunking. But if you're not starting from a foundation of stability, you'll quickly run of cash, and end up telling your coworkers at Burgerplace about the stalactites in New Zealand.

    "That's cool and all, but it's your turn to clean the fryer."
    Image source:
    Stability is about freedom. And I'm super thankful to have that freedom to live the life I want.

  4. The ability to introspect and to learn - This may be a weird thing to be thankful for. Isn't introspection just a fancy way of saying "thinking about stuff"? I constantly question and re-question my beliefs and choices. I always assumed that everyone does this.

    But I've come to realize that that's not true. There are folks who blindly accept what they were taught when they were 6 years old. There are folks who staunchly hold on to an idea, even if it has failed them repeatedly. There are those who attack things they don't understand, rather than learning and experiencing those things for themselves.

    I see a lot of fear. People fear things that are different. They fear things they can't comprehend. They fear ideas and choices which are not the same as their ideas and choices. And if you've been following the news at all, you will see that - sadly - this fear often turns to hate and violence.

    Preach it, my man

    Any time I hear something I don't agree with, I think about why I disagree with it: If there's even a good reason for it. Any time I'm afraid of something, I force myself to engage with that thing, whether it's the dark, kumite, or a marathon. Any time I start judging people for their preconceptions, biases, or discriminations, I stop and think, "wait, do I feel the way they do? Am I judging them because I have the same bias?"

    I try not to accept anything at face value. I expose my most deeply rooted beliefs to the sun. I explore my own hate and anger, try to understand where it comes from, and try to conquer it. I never say, "oh no, I'm not like that," and just blissfully go along my ignorant way. It's too easy to pretend to be something if you've never been truly tested.

    I'm thankful that I can quiet my ego and look into myself. Much of what I have learned in life has been in silence.

  5. Pain - Few enjoy pain. But I honestly don't believe I'd be able to appreciate all of the things above if I'd never experienced pain. If you've never endured the hard things in life, you can't really enjoy the good things. If you've only ever lived a life of luxury, it becomes kind of meaningless. But if you've worked hard and suffered for every one of your achievements, they become true gifts. All of my strength and growth has come from pain. I believe this so strongly that I deliberately inflict pain on myself on a daily basis. I cause myself physical pain with exercise. I cause myself mental pain by challenging my own ego every day. I cause myself emotional pain by thinking about those I've hurt so that I can become a better person.

    You can't achieve this without mastering pain.
    Src: Pumping Iron

    I'm not afraid of pain. Not anymore. I know that it doesn't have any power over me. Pain is a tool. Torn muscles heal stronger. Shattered beliefs grow into more valuable ones. A broken heart swells to accept more love. This isn't true for everyone. Some break in the face of pain.

    But I welcome pain into my life. And I am thankful for it.

  6. My cat - Just look at her!!

    She's thankful for the mouse she's about to murder.

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