Archive | February, 2012

resilience at the treadmill

20 Feb

Newest epiphany: resilience, like optimism and happiness, is not as one-dimensional as I’ve been led to believe. At its core, resilience is about doing what you know must be done, no matter what the world throws at you. You do resilience, you don’t have it. My epiphany came at the treadmill, when I concluded that I was doing one version of resilience: I was overcoming.

Running falls into two buckets: treadmill or field. The treadmill equals the gym, surrounded by other treadmills, TVs, people, and cheesy 90’s dance hits that are supposed to make you maximize your pumpage (term is patent pending). The field typically involves the outdoors, maybe a lake or some hills. It’s just you and the open path.

Running, though, is not running is not running. Ask a life-long runner and she will tell you that a myriad of things distinguish running on a treadmill and on the field: wind, floor/ground bounce/stability/flatness, posture, obstacles, etc. This covers the mechanics, but the inertia part is what fascinates me most. These two approaches to the same activity embody their own attitude, and I believe, their own sort of resilience.

There are two types of resilience. One involves pressing forward during trying times; shit happens and you need got to do it despite of the circumstances. The other occurs when things are fine, but you seek more. The former is in play when your car breaks down right before an interview, the latter when you decide you would love to learn French. Both forms of resilience are hard to achieve and much harder to maintain (resilience is mostly measure by its self-sustaining energy). But the difference lies where they start and what keeps them alive.

The treadmill, I believe, symbolizes an external impetus. You turn it on and you better get moving, otherwise your face will meet a hard object soon. You also have an audience that is very quietly judging you. Your skill and success or defeat are not just for you alone, but for everyone else there. But you also have the option of giving up, turning off the treadmill, and stepping back to where you first began. The quitting element is easy to do, and probably easy to justify considering the circumstances.

The field, on the other hand, is all you. It’s all internal ignition. You decide to run around the park, no external force makes you keep that promise. You are also more likely to be alone, so there’s no one else to push you, or judge you (which actually may be its own sort of pushing), just your own motivation. If you decide to quit, you can do so, just like with the treadmill, and it might be even easier because you are not held accountable to anyone.

I have tried to make myself a field runner. I know that it’s better for you, more freeing, more relaxing, and can actually be more fun and gratifying. But it’s hard. I start, feel good, and all of a sudden I lose that push. I probably fool myself in believing I don’t need this, even though I know that in nearly all previous runs I feel great afterwards. So then I start shuffling my way back. This never happens to me when I am on the treadmill. I feel compelled to run and sweat and give it my all. People are noticing my performance, the treadmill is unforgiving, and my momentum is sort of something I am being dragged by, not something I am pushing forth. I need to run. Survival is at stake here.

A questionnaire on authentichappiness.com let me know what to call theses attitudes. It turns out I am very good at overcoming crises, and not letting them take over my life. This revelation is in line with my treadmill epiphany. I can run when I feel I need to run, when my survival instincts kick in; it’s harder for me to run when I want to run for the fun of it. My resiliency appears when I have to react to life’s battles, not so much when I decide to embark on something that feels like a nice-to-have. I am convinced that if I try a little harder at expanding what I believe to be ‘necessary,’ to include more fun and self-motivated things, I will be a little bit better at tapping the other type of resilience. At the very least, it will help me stick to my run around the park.

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better call saul

9 Feb

Breaking Bad is (and I am paraphrasing here) a middle-aged man in khakis & a button-up throwing a Molotov cocktail at a battle royale between a semi truck and a tank. Meth dealing is somewhere in there, too. It’s an immensely entertaining and addicting show, and it has taken hold of my nerves. It is, quite simply, the best thriller I have ever seen on any sort of screen. It’s also an amazing character study and a study of character.

The premise can be summarized thusly: harmless-as-kittens chemistry teacher uses his smarts to produce top-shelf meth upon finding out he has terminal lung cancer. But there are so many rich story lines, finely drawn characters, and an impressively kinetic narrative woven into this plot that to summarize it as above would be the disservice of the year.

I won’t reveal anything here (people who ruin plots/endings are meant to live in Dante’s 9th circle of hell). I will simply point out what is fairly obvious upon watching a handful of episodes. Everybody good? OK then, onward. Continue reading

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