And the Beat Goes On

19 06 2012

26 weeks into my quest for better health through a mostly plant based diet and increased exercise. Acupuncture has remained helpful to me. I’ve lost 8 pounds in my first 8 days after beginning treatments. My cravings although lingering from time to time have greatly decreased. This still doesn’t stop me from doing occasional boneheaded things like eating way to much steak for Father’s Day. It’s weird actually, despite eating mostly plant based for over 6 months, I think my taste for a good steak will never completely diminish. This is a repeating pattern for me though, make some great gains towards my goal then gain some weight right back. I lack discipline. Some days are good and I am strong but then I fall apart. It’s frustrating but it is life.

The other great part about the acupuncture treatments is that my pain is really subsiding. Shoulder pain that I have dealt with on an increasing lever for about three months is now quickly fading away. If I wake up with it in the morning, it leaves quickly. Some mornings I have no pain at all. My ankle also feels a lot better. I tend to think I’ll have a long road to go to get it to where it needs to be but it is feeling better and I can’t argue so far with the results.

The needles in my ear to decrease the cravings, reduce stress and bump up metabolism are killing me this time around. With each session, the ears are switched. But this last round hurts so bad that massaging them is nearly impossible. I’m not sure how much of a benefit they are without the massage. The Chinese tea and herbs still taste like dirt and bark but I’m getting by with them.

I started out the day with yoga this morning and wrapped up the day with some exercise targeting specific muscle groups. I’m hoping that by my next acupuncture appointment on Friday, I will be able to say that the hard work has paid off and that I’ve lost more weight. Some of my eating this weekend has not helped me though. So now I have to play the catch up game. When I finally get the diet, exercise and treatment all going full bore, I’ll be dangerous.





A Little Inspiration

1 06 2012

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Mike Watt on Life, Death and Art

16 05 2012
Mike Watt – The man in the van with a bass in his hand.  For quite awhile now, Watt has been a lighthouse in the midst of my creative ocean – not steering me to the safety of the shore, but steering me away from it to untapped regions of the unknown where beautiful things can be born if you are brave enough to plant and water the seeds.  I’ve spoken about him in other posts so I won’t beat the same old stories to death here.  Suffice to say, he’s one very creative individual who has a beautiful mind and I’ve considered myself extremely fortunate to be able to interact with him now and again.  The world would benefit from more Mike Watts…I’ll leave it at that and move on to this recent interview with him:
Pic I took from the most recent missingmen 3rd opera tour in Philly
JS: Back in September I came down with a serious infection that took me about 5 months to fight off.  It changed my outlook on a lot of things and really spurred  me to make some long overdue lifestyle changes.  You had your own experience with a seriousness illness back in 2000.  Can you talk a little about that and how that experience spurred change in you?
WATT:  yes, the experience twelve years ago with that illness provided both the inspiration for my second opera and helped make me even more earnest to make as much work as I can with the time I’ve got left.  it was very profound feelings of mortality that shook me to my core. I was only fortytwo and still had so much more I wanted to do.  it was intense for me, big time.
JS:  I’ve come to realize from being sick that I’ve been terrified of pain all of my life and will go to great lengths to avoid it.  What do you think pain teaches us?
WATT:  I was born with bad knees and had much much pain there, surgeries in my twenties.  I think it even helped make me feel more paranoid, waiting for the next “incident” hell and shit like that.  pain can mold us into trippy shapes if we let it dominate us.  it is a tough struggle but seems like a part of the journey.   damn.   probably being born without pain is a challenge also, believe or not.   life is not easy but can be interesting if you put your heart into it.   the physical hells are struggles though, that’s for sure.
JS: We all have our own insecurities and fears.  I often am afraid of opening myself up to strangers in such a public way (as I’ve been doing on this website).  When you have pushed through your own fears in the past what have you found waiting for you on the other side?
WATT:  I got into music to be with my buddy d. boon and he definitely was not so fearful.  this helped me much and I borrowed from him on this, he inspired me to try and be brave but not conceited – he was like that: a very humble man who would try his hardest with expression.  I find when I push some fears away, there’s others waiting so the “fear problem” is never “solved” but rather constantly wrestled.  that’s a trip.
JS:  One of my favorite lyrics from your third opera “hyphenated-man” comes from the song  pinned-to-the-table-man.  “Loss and liberation, forever the connection, forever the question”.  There is so much in that one little sentence.  Can you expand upon the relationship between loss and liberation?  What is the connection and what is the question as you see it?
WATT:  I wrote that in saint petersburg (russia) way after all the other stuff.  in fact I recorded the spiel at my pedro pad when I got back cuz everything had done been done at tony maimone’s studio g in brooklyn already.  the problem was I was “ending” (I say that cuz in theory it’s supposed to be circular and unending) with the “man-shitting-man” part and I realized that folks might take that as the bottom line or some kind of summation/summary of the whole piece.  so what I did was the move the middle (hub) song to the end and instead of having one instrumental as originally planned, I wrote that spiel you refer to and put that part in the middle.  the spiel itself refers to middle years and the idea of reconciliation.  of course not everything can be reconciled and I had to acknowledge that w/a part like that “man-shitting-man” one but in other places, that can happen – even it can be very painful and be a tough lesson to learn.  man treating fellow man inhumanely can’t ever be reconciled in my thinking though, it is huge problem.
angels gate lightouse – April 22, 2008
 Mike Watt 

JS: I’ve really enjoyed your photography over the years.  Some of my favorites like the angels gate lighthouse pics can be found in your new book: mike watt  on and off bass (published by Three Rooms Press).   Have you found any intrinsic similarities between snapping pictures and making music?
WATT:  snapping pictures means trying to capture something you can’t really set up, the way I do it at the crack of dawn on the bicycle or in the kayak.  with composition, you’re more in charge of preparing the situation. there’s more chance involved I think with the pictures and more personal effort with the song stuff.  there are similarities with the idea of refining an expression in a way though, I agree with you there.
JS:  There are also excerpts from your tour diaries as well as some of your poetry in the book.  You have been exploring many different forms of art.  Is there a common thread or underlying drive that spurs you into these seemingly different artistic directions?
WATT:  laurie steelink at track 16 gallery picked the first thirtyfive shots, the three rooms people kat and peter picked the diary entries and the rest of the included images so I think in a way the book is a collaboration.  as for diary writing, I do that on tour to help keep focus and never reread them, so embarrassing to me! that’s the practical side to it.  I guess it is some sort of extension of some of the same stuff in the picture taking and bass plucking too.  I guess the common thread is fucking watt.
JS:  It sometimes appears that for many of us the act of “creating” is encoded into our DNA.  I don’t necessarily mean this in a religious way, but it just seems that we are wired to want to create.  Why do you think human beings find the act of creating, especially art, so important?
Watt:  john coltrane said something about musicians being after a truth and I’m thinking that could apply to the other arts as well.  it’s a search…

JS:  If your vast body of artistic work could only accomplish one thing, what would you want it to be?
Watt: to make folks feel safe to take risks with arts and expression in each of our journeys to find our inside voice and not just flop around in the very shallow pan of marsh, finding ourselves bound up in puppet strings.

~~~~~~~~~

Pic of Watt and me.  I’m over 400 pounds in this pic.  I never posted it before because I have always been ashamed at how out of whack I let my weight get around this time.  Now that I’ve lost some of this weight, it feels a little bit safer.

Mike’s book (it’s awesome, buy yourself a copy) can be purchased here: http://threeroomspress.com/

Mike’s music can be found at itunes, fine music purveyors everywhere and here at his new label: http://clenchedwrench.com/

Info on all things Mike can be found here: http://hootpage.com/

Watt’s podcast of interesting music and ideas here:  http://twfps.com/

(Thanks again Mike!)





Eulogy

17 04 2012

Let me live among passionate people! It doesn’t matter if its a passion to make it as an actor, get a promotion or land a dream job. Maybe its a passion to become a renowned photographer, grow the largest tomatoes or to be the best at Parcheesi. It doesn’t matter what it is, the drive is the exact same.

Let me be around people who enjoy life. People who savor each and every moment. People who reach to obtain the seemingly unattainable. People who are perpetually on fire with excitement.

Let me be near strong, resilient people so that when I fall they will be there to remind me that I have to pick myself up and get back on track. Let me know people brave enough to walk through the fear and the pain in their lives. People who persevere long after the rest of us would pack it in. People who have the physical and emotional scars of life but recognize that in these experiences they have discovered their strength.

Let me know emotional people who truly “feel” life. Let me know men who can cry. People who can connect and empathize. Let them be close at hand for the times when I find myself disconnecting from life around me. For the times when I feel disconnected from myself.

When I check out, I want to know that I did a little bit of everything and that I did it as well as I was able. That I put pieces of me into everything I did and that I did it with pride and passion and love. That I butted up against every wall in front of me and tried my best to break through. That the times I met wih failure, I learned from it and did not give up. That time and time again, I surpassed my own expectations which I had set for myself. That in obtaining what I had sought, I appreciated it fully but was only momentarily complacent – wanting to strive further. That my life was interesting to me. That I lived the life I wanted to live and not the one that others expected I should live. That I had a little bit of passion in every aspect of it. That I did some good while I was here while minimizing harm to others. That when I did harm, people found it in themselves to forgive me. That those who truly knew me, didn’t judge me but saw me for the person I was. That I was able to see others in this same way. That I saw things not in black and white but in shades of grey.

Life is hard and its short. I just want to be able to say when my spirit separates from my body that I took the life that was given to me and I used it to its fullest. That for all of the times that I pissed my time away, there were more instances where I used it for something worthwhile. That after some years of stagnation, I finally stood up and inherited my destiny. That I actually LIVED.

Then I will rest peacefully.





Envision Something Different

16 04 2012

And so begins week 17 of my journey to better health through exercise and a plant based diet. This week I lost an additional 2 pounds which brings my total to 61 pounds shed in nearly 4 months. I’m starting to see that some of my bigger goals are within reach, especially life below the 300 pound mark.

I recently donated about a dozen pairs of pants because they are now too big for me. I’ve gone down several pants sizes and can barely keep the current size on. In the not too distant future I’ll be able to purchase my clothes at real stores and not specialty “big guy” clothing shops. I can’t tell you how liberating that will be. These are all big changes but sometimes the smallest of changes are the ones that really hit home for a person.

On two recent occasions I have gone out to eat and have been able to sit comfortably in a booth. This hasn’t happened in about 15 years. There was a pain associated with the dining out experience that just became so natural and engrained that I actually began to no longer recognize it. I just sort of became numb to it.

There has been a whole process with going out to eat that has been complicated and stressful for me. In the past if I was offered a booth, I’d have to ask the server for a table instead. I have a 7 year old and she wants to sit in the booth every time I take her out. So there is that whole process of trying to explain to her that it’s more comfortable for me to sit at a table. Often times this does not resonate with her and meals get off to a rocky start.

At the size that I have been, sitting at a table is no easy feat either. From the second I walk into a place, I’m on a scouting mission to find a chair that has some room around it and especially behind it. I don’t want to obstruct anyone else’s flow or make a person sitting at a nearby table feel like they don’t have enough room. It’s been a real headache but one that happens so often that the pain of it has dulled. It’s just become the reality that I have lived with – until now.

Lately I can sit comfortably in a booth. There is room between my gut and the table and it is a pleasant experience. My daughter is happy to finally be sitting in a both like a “normal” person and that makes me happy too. To be able to go out to eat like most people do is an amazing feeling.

With the way I have been living up until now, there were so many things I had taken for granted. In a lot of ways this weight loss experience feels like a slow rebirth. I’m beginning to realize again some of the simple pleasures in life (things that most people take for granted). I’m really recognizing deeply how my poor choices have limited me in the past.

How are our lives similar? Everyone has their own battlefield in life. It may not be weight. It can be anything really, whatever holds you back and prevents you from being your best self. We are all encumbered by “the weight” of something. What are our own lives trying to teach us? Can we pull ourselves from the wreckage of our past hurts? Can we become our own phoenix rising from the ashes of our past disappointments? Can we use our greatest weaknesses as rungs on a ladder and climb above all of the muck that seeks to hold us back? Can we inherit the life we were meant to live? The life that we deserve to live? I think we can. It takes just one single step followed by another and another combined with the willingness to walk into and through our fear. On the other side, something beautiful waits for us. We really can get there together.





Cherish It

15 03 2012

“What is life?
It is the flash of a firefly in the night.
It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.
It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”
-Crowfoot








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