Another Birthday In The ER

It's my birthday weekend, and I spent most of the day today in the emergency room. Unfortunately for me, it's not something I'm entirely unaccustomed to. I've spent nearly 1/3 of my birthdays in my 33 years of life in the ER.

But today, it wasn't about me. A close friend of ours, Jenny Kennedy, lost her recurring battle with cancer at 8:30 this morning. We spent the day being with family and friends, and sharing stories about her life. I saw her just last night while I was helping my mother-in-law set up her brand new laptop (hence the cursing and crying about Windows, PC's, anti-virus and the like). Jenny got a huge kick out of my blunt, non-chalant method of informing just about anyone who would listen just how much I hated doing what I was doing, and was only doing it out of love.

My last moments with her, and she was laughing. Happy. Smiling. I can't say that Jenny and I were extraordinarily close, but she was very close to my wife and her mother, and a constant part of my life since I met her. She as at my wedding, my wife's high school and college graduations, my housewarming party, and every trip my mother-in-law has ever taken to the hospital or Buloxi. She knew me well enough to know who I was, what I did and how I did it, and she understood that my blunt, often brash demeanor when helping on computer crap was meant almost specifically to entertain myself while doing stuff I didn't find particularly fun. And she got a kick out of it.

I'm glad I could give her a bit to laugh about her last night here. I'm glad she was such a great friend and a part of our lives. And I will miss her, mostly for who she was for my family.


Anger As Motivation

I think all creative types have something they'd consider a motivation. And in my experience, many - if not all - of them can point to some art teacher or writing instructor or parent or other force in their life that was an influence of one sort or another.

It's at that point that you begin seeing a division - those who had positive influences and those who had negative influences. And the ones who had negative influences - people who said "no" or "you can't" or "get real" or "whatever, go get a real job" will probably lie about it when asked, but if you could read their minds and dig deep into their souls, you'd find out that a lot of their motivation to succeed and be creative and produce comes from proving wrong the ghosts of their pasts.

It was for me. Maybe it still is. But something I learned very recently has caused me to begin changing my perspective and draw motivation and energy from the positive repositories in my life:

Spending your life proving everyone wrong is a complete waste of a life, because ultimately they don't actually care.

Insults are easy. They take no work whatsoever. You just hurl one and move on. Insults are heat-seeking - they'll find the target and explode, sure enough.

But what you have to understand when someone takes this easy path is that they weren't negative and derogatory because they actively wanted you to fail - that takes a form of concern, and anyone who is truly concerned with another person doesn't actually do things that take effort. No, these folks just cast off your dreams and insult your passions because they're too weak to understand passion and drive. If they actually did understand it, they'd have an empathy borne only of going through the trials of pass and failure.

People who get it will take time to give you a critique - an honest assessment of what they see and where they think you stand based on it. And that critique may FEEL uncomfortable... Sometimes, it even feels insulting. But it's not the same as being insulted. It's not dismissive and it's not easy, it takes time and effort to offer. And there's the difference - no one spends time doing something they don't care about.

And, while anyone who honestly cares about you won't blow candy-flavored smoke up your ass and fill you with false hope, they will be supportive and proud as you climb each rung of your own ladder of success. And the ones who hurl insults and try to drag you down actually don't care if you fail or make it - they're not invested. They just want to dig and stab and wile away a few hours or minutes entertaining themselves with your misery.

Teachers, parents, aunts, uncles, friends and complete strangers are all OTHER PEOPLE. And to hate them - to let them be the reason you keep pushing forward - is giving them WAY too much of yourself. The problem with being fueled by the fires of anger is that they tend to consume all of the oxygen around whatever you're doing, and you can't actually sustain the life of that project. Not to any meaningful degree, anyway. It'll die.

And don't make the mistake of thinking that, because you put the final stroke of paint on your canvas, the work is done. It's not. Art doesn't exist in forms and materials, it's the spirit of the work that speaks to the world. It's communication, and if what you just built or made is comprised of bitterness, anger, hostility or jealousy, it'll show. The art can still die after you've constructed it, especially if you've built it on such a weak foundation.

The same goes for trying to impress someone with your art. It's not an honest motivation, and that will show. And ultimately... They won't care about it nearly as much as you care about them caring about it (I had to re-read that last sentence 4 times to make sure I got it right, and I'm still not sure, but I think it is, so...). So why waste your time?


Thoughts After My First Marathon

I look happy in that pic, don't I?

Well, to tell the truth, I was in quite a lot of pain. But it's the best pain I've ever felt in my entire life. I just ran a MARATHON, guys - not four hours ago. Holy crap.

So, while sitting here waiting for a dinner reservation to celebrate, I thought I'd share with you guys a few of the thoughts flying through my head right now.

First and foremost, and there's no getting around this one... This guy right here just ran a Marathon:

26.2 miles I ran. The entire last mile, I held this picture in my head. It astounded me how far I've come, and words cannot express the pride and sense of accomplishment I felt when I crossed the finish line. I cried as my wife hugged me in celebration. And there's a part of me that felt a little sting for ever letting myself get to the above photo's state, so that was a little "ow" there.

Next, it hurts like hell to run a marathon. Period. In fact, I'd say that once you get to about the 14 or 16 mile portion of your training regimen, the cardio is no longer a factor. Your cardio is good enough to go run a marathon. Everything after that point is just training your body to be able to take the pain, pressure and stress of going 26.2 miles... And there's a lot of it.

Third, that thing about the "runner's high" or "the zone" or whatever? 100% true. You get into a rhythm while running (if you've trained properly and found your pace) where, yes, it hurts and it's an effort and takes intestinal fortitude... But you're not thinking about it. Your legs are like a machine that just keeps churning. And while you THINK it'd feel pretty good to stop and walk or just sit down, the exact opposite is the case. Running actually feels the best of all three options. So, you just settle in and start churning away.

Fourth, you'd think that as you get up to miles 20 and beyond, every single mile you finish feels like such a great accomplishment and encourages you to keep going and push harder... HELL NO. All you can think is "Holy crap, this is mile 22, why the hell can't they just trust that I can do the other 4.2 miles and let me stop now?" You think about the days you only did a 2 mile run or a light jog and you think "GAH it's only 20 more minutes, just... WHY CAN'T THIS BE OVER???"

Fifth, if you're interested in ever trying a marathon... It takes work. A LOT of work. I highly recommend you start with a half marathon if you can, for purely milestone purposes. That said, ANYONE with a base level of fitness (can walk a mile without stopping, can go up a few flights of stairs, etc) can do a Marathon starting from zero in just four months of training - and anyone who can run three miles without stopping can do one in just three months. There are tons of books on the subject, but I recommend Hal Higdon's Marathon Training book.

Sixth, relating to why I did a marathon of all the things in the world I could have chosen to do... I'm done with football training. I just don't think it's in the cards for me to play pro anymore. My wife is a marathoner and triathlete, and while the past few years have seen us going to the gym together, a lot of our training was separate. She says the marathon is by far the hardest thing she's ever done, and I decided "Hell... Since I don't have a sport anymore, why not try the hardest thing ever, just to show myself I can do it?" A year ago, I never thought I'd do even a half marathon, or really even a 10k. But I wanted a statement to myself and myself alone which would signify the real difference I've made in my shape and fitness. Thus, marathon.

Seventh, I saw a pretty vast improvement in both my speed and my endurance as I lost weight during the marathon training. Going from carrying 290ish pounds three to four miles (MOST OF IT MUSCLE YOU GUYS, TOTALLY) to 250ish lbs across the same distance was, all by itself, a huge improvement in my training. I highly recommend anyone planning to try any endurance event whatsoever to explore eating plans that support proper diet and allow you to burn calories while staying energized, the weight loss alone will improve your ability to finish.



Go Bengals!

I am a Bengals fan of 22 years. That is a LONG time to suffer that sort of pain, but that's how loyal I am to things I love.

When my father married my mom in 1987, he inherited my 10-year-old, totally sports-clueless rear and said "pick a team from each league. We will watch them, and if you like them, we will follow them."

I picked the New York Rangers in hockey because they were one of only two NHL hockey teams at the time that did exhibitions in Atlanta at the Omni, and the Islanders had a stupid mascot (the Gorton's fisherman is no sports mascot).

I picked the Atlanta Braves in baseball because Dale Murphy was a huge hero in Atlanta.

I picked the New York Knicks in basketball because I knew Chuck D from Public Enemy liked them.

And then, I picked the Cincinnati Bengals in football because at the time, I was really into tiger stuff (I can't really explain why now that I look back on it). And the Bengals had those nifty tiger striped helmets, so that was my team.

And then, that very year, Boomer Esiason sets a passing record and becomes the NFL MVP, and the Bengals go to the Super Bowl for the ONLY time in the 22 years I've been a fan.

Even through the 90's, after the Icky Shuffle waned and no one remembered how Anthony Munoz was the only tackle in the NFL to regularly run "tackle-eligable" as a receiver, I still proudly sported my Bengals Starter jacket and hat. And through the 2000's, when it seemed that the Cincinnati scouts hung out primarily at prison yard scrimmages to find talent, I still laid out my mother's handmade Bengals quilt and read Information Architecture blueprints by my official Sports Illustrated Bengals helmet lamp.

And in 2006, the night that the Bengals lost to the Steelers in their only playoff appearance since 1989, I did a "poetry slam" about the injury to Carson Palmer during a national competition... And came in 3rd out of 41 people (My wife and Nick "SexCPotatoes" remember that one).

So today, instead of visiting parks or seeing attractions, I sit in my suite at the Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge the afternoon before my first ever full marathon race, with room service having prepared my evening's cuisine , just so I can see my Bengals in their 3rd playoff appearance since I became a fan and 5th in my lifetime.

So, guy delivering my food, if you call me a bandwagon fan ever again, I'll fucking gut you with a Mickey Mouse emblazoned steak knife, and don't think I won't.


I'm In "The Atlantan"

To continue the trend of talking about magazines covering me (hey, it's my blog, I can be as megalomaniacal as I want), I was told this morning by a friend of mine that I'm in the latest issue of The Atlantan magazine (skip to page 40-41 - thanks @Fallout30, http://twitter.com/Xavi7734/statuses/7560357017, and @Pride.

Now, this is interesting, because The Atlantan is basically an alt-weekly for the hoity-toity - a Creative Loafing for the well-to-do, with articles like "Which Designer Should I Use To Decorate My Piano Room?" and "How To Swim In Your Pool Made Of Cash When The Lifeguard Is On Break." So it's kinda strange for me to show up in their pages, especially as something called "The Biblio Bad Boy."

But hey, I'm there. So like, yeah. Not sure what to do with it, it's just a small blurb. But the great thing is that for the first time since the Creative Loafing article back in 2006, I'm actually being covered by my own city's rags.



My Weight Loss Story is The Cover Story on ACE Weekly

If you're bored and curious about my weight loss / fitness story, including some pretty embarrassing "before" photos and anticdotes, ACE Weekly, the Lexington, KY weekly magazine has it as their cover story this week. If you live in the area, you can pick it up on stands, and if not, you can read it online:

The big image on the front page links to a PDF of the article, but some people are reporting trouble downloading it - so I've hosted a mirror of it here. So if you're so bored you want to read about fat Joe becoming less-than-fat-Joe, have at it :)


A New Year's Reminder - The Rules of the Gym

My trip to the gym last night reminded me of one of the most popular posts I've ever written, explaining the rules of the gym. Click on that if you've never read it, or even if you have - I don't care. Just click on it. NOW.

It's still relevant. And, as far as I could tell from looking at all the idiots at the gym last night, it's not being shared by as many folks as it should be, which is everyone ever. So please, do me a huge favor - link the post everywhere. Print it out and post it at your gym. Rent a sky-writing plane and share it far and wide with everyone. Because with all the New Years Resolution folks at the gym, I saw at least 15 flagrant fouls in the first 10 minutes alone.

And as far as that goes, no, I do not hate or resent New Years Resolution people at the gym. I celebrate any and all opportunities for people to put a pin in a map and say "I want to be here." The people I resent are the ones who aren't showing up in February and beyond. Those are the folks who I wish would just decide to stop NOW and free up the treadmills for those of us who actually take ourselves and our wellbeing seriously.

Speaking on this point, here's a video by my friends DigiTribe that shows, in rather hilarious fashion, the exact progression of the type of people I'm talking about:

So yeah, PLEASE share the Rules of the Gym with everyone you know, even if they can't read. Because if you don't I'm going to end up killing them, and I sincerely doubt you want everyone you know to die.


Aries Spears Rap Impressions

Okay, not my typical post, but being a rap and hip-hop fan, this absolutely blew my mind:


So Far, Not The Last Decade is Going Great

I ripped my entire office apart down to the floorboards, emptied it, cleaned it, and moved things back in in a new order.

This is what it looks like so far:

The chair and the lamp on the left were Christmas presents to myself. I FINALLY own an Aeron at home - and in just one day, it's made a HUGE difference. I can sit comfortably for hours at a time and get work done without needing to get up and move around. My legs don't go numb. I sit higher at the desk, which means I can move the two top monitor stands back and actually sit OVER my Cintiq, so I can finally remove the hunk of wood I used to prop the back legs up and move the monitor more "vertical."

The lamp is a Herman Miller "Leaf" lamp, and it was a total spoil-myself purchase. I've wanted a cold-warm light lamp since I was a teenager, but back then, they were thousands of dollars. Now, I can finally afford one, and dammit, I own one.

Resetting my workspace has been HUGE for me. Before the reorg, I had stacks of Akira cels and books all over my office. It's one of those situations where you just don't realize the towers of disorganization that you are building around yourself until one day, you arrive home from being on the road and realize you can't even see the walls behind your desk due to the stacks of crap everywhere.

I've finally ordered bookshelves for my office as well, so I can move all my references up to a much more handy spot than all the way downstairs in the library.

All in all, the past three days have been - by all accounts - fantastic. I've started my year the best way possible, and kept the momentum rolling. Hopefully I'll be able to elaborate on my new projects with you tomorrow, but there's still some preparations that need to happen first. We'll see :)


A New Years Resolution - Positivity

Here's a thing that I'm doing (with Andrea) that I'm encouraging everyone to try this year:

I've a bad habit of making fun of myself. I make disparaging remarks about my physique, my lack of writing ability, how lame my book is compared to (insert writer here)'s book, etcetera. And while, yes, most of the time I'm just trying to get a laugh, it's also true that thought preceeds action.

So, from now on, before taking the pot-shot at myself, I'm going to try to say something positive instead. It may not be in the same vein, and sometimes it might not even be aloud or written. But I'm not going to allow myself to tear myself down anymore. It's not that I suffer horribly from a low self opinion, but like everyone, I do get down on myself a good bit. And I think that this is the first step toward not doing that (or at the very least, doing it less).

At first, it feels fake and silly. I can't really believe myself when I say the good stuff, because I know the whole point was to erase or redact the negativity. But I can tell you from experience, this DOES work - and I know it'll work again. I had to do this exercise when I was a youngster going through counseling for other stuff, and in a few months, it really did change my outlook on things - not the least of which was my own self.

So if you find yourself digging at yourself, especially in front of others, give this a try. But don't just give it a day or two and then shrug at how silly you feel. If you trust me, I encourage you to commit to it for at least two months. Sixty days, that is. And since you have to live through the next sixty days anyway, you might as well try doing it with a positive attitude - you'll end up two months older either way. Why not try a way that'll make you feel better?


Happy Not The Last Decade

Here's hoping the first day of the new decade was super neat for you. They say the first day of the new year sets the tone for the rest of the year. In that case, mine will be pretty darned great.

For those of you who found yourself face down in a pile of what you ate yesterday afternoon with your knickers around your knees and the word "cock" written on your forehead with Sharpie... Well, look at it this way - if you can keep the video of it from hitting YouTube before midnight, the year might just work out after all.

As for what my year/decade will look like, I'll elaborate tomorrow. For now, I'm gonna go finish setting the tone for it.