Nice Guys – Yawn …

Why do nice guys get such a bad rap? I used to feel sorry for my self-proclaimed nice guy friends who would bemoan their poor treatment from women who “always” went for the “bad boy.” These nice guys would get ditched for a guy who apparently wasn’t quite so nice. Boo hoo.

A few years ago I fell for a nice guy. He treated me like a goddess. He was my biggest fan. There wasn’t anything I could say or do that wasn’t brilliant or an accomplishment. For those who know me, you know how I initially reacted.

“Finally! Someone who really understands me!”

Our relationship really was all about me – what I wanted, where I wanted to go, which movie I wanted to see, which sandwich I wanted to split. If you’ve ever seen the movie, Lars and the Real Girl, you’ll understand, except that I was with my Real Boy. The two of us were a reflection of me. I really didn’t know who he was inside.

But he was definitely nice.

The man I love isn’t what I’d call nice. He’s polite, kind, generous, and compassionate. He’s funny, smart, edgy, and a risk taker. He’s like a paint-by-number kit with every color under the sun vs. shades of gray. We don’t always agree and it doesn’t bother either one of us. But I wouldn’t just call him a nice guy.

Why do women go for the bad boy? (And for the record, I’m not talking about mean or abusive men.) I’ll speak for myself here. Bad boys fascinate me. They aren’t trying to impress or flatter. They are wholly themselves and know how to have fun. These guys aren’t hiding behind a mask, nervous that their opinions or needs will be unsatisfactory. As for me, give me smart and funny – throw in compassionate and generous, and I’m there every time.

But don’t just try to be smart and funny, compassionate and generous, if in reality you are not. In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.”

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What Is Health?

According to Oxford’s American Dictionary, health is a state of being free from illness or injury. I’m looking for a lot more than just health, even more than just good health. I want wellness. I want to feel like I’m in a state of being the best I can possibly be. I want to believe that if I close my eyes I can spread my wings and fly.

Since my first e84 challenge at the end of April, 2011, I’ve successfully maintained my weight loss of approximately thirty pounds. I made it through the holidays without any weight gain. And while some weeks my weight doesn’t budge, I also haven’t spent much time exercising. With that in mind, I’m beginning my fourth e84 challenge, designed to kick-start my weight loss again and especially to strengthen and tone my body … ‘cause it’s the only place I have to live – to paraphrase Jim Rohn.

I have brand-new “before” pictures and you’d better believe that my “after” pictures are going to look great! This time around, instead of just taking the standard chest, waist and hips measurements, I added in upper arms and thighs. My weight loss goal is a minimum of 17 pounds. I’d like to be in size 8 jeans and I haven’t been in that size since college. The difference  between college and now (besides about 30+ years) is that when I lost weight back then, it was the result of the latest fad diet. At the time, I embraced the Scarsdale diet, starving myself in the name of vanity, not health.

The e84 challenge is not a fad diet. For 84 days I’ll concentrate on fine-tuning my healthy eating habits and making good choices. I’ll still treat myself to the occasional crème brulee and drink raw (whole) milk in my coffee, but I’ll be deliberate about what I choose to eat.

My fitness program reflects my goals. Walking is still my preferred cardio exercise and I’ll register for another marathon this fall – with the end-goal of beating my 2011 time by more than an hour. Easy peezy.

Fitness Plan:

  • Walk 20 miles per week
  • Bike (cross-training) 10 miles per week
  • Bodyweight exercises every day – alternating upper and lower body (planks, push-ups, arm-bands, lunges, plies)
  • Stretching every day
  • Yoga once a week (more often if possible)

Health Plan:

  • Sleep 8 hours per night
  • Floss every night
  • Limited or no sugar
  • Limited or no alcohol
  • 64 oz. minimum water

Of course, it goes without saying that I’ll be following my e84 BURN Challenge, drinking my Evolv shake with milk and fruit in the morning, adding a post-workout shake and drinking my Thin drink each afternoon. Otherwise, just eating what I like. Really. No counting, no points, no crazy fad diet stuff – just treating my body with respect.

For years I’ve used my body as an excuse for not living up to my potential. Now after three challenges, I feel better than I have in my entire life. At almost 50 years old, I look better than I ever have, even when I weighed a lot less. I’m healthier and it shows.

Want to join me and begin your own health revolution? Find out more about the e84 challenge packages for all levels of health and fitness. http://www.sharonhayward.myevolv.net.

Readers and Writers

I doubt that I would ever have become a writer if I hadn’t first been a reader. From an early age, I learned to escape into the written word, living in my imagination, taking the ride offered by someone else’s pen.

How limited and dull my life would be if I didn’t have a love of reading. Suppose I’d never really learned to read – suppose it had become a struggle and therefore a chore. That’s why I volunteer thirty minutes a week with the Grand Rapids Schools of Hope tutoring program.

The big picture is that I listened to our Heart of West Michigan United Way volunteer describe the future prison-building plans as based on an area’s current third-grade reading level. Shocking, but it makes sense. Kids who struggle to read in third grade aren’t going to improve their school performance in subsequent years. Imagine a boy or girl who can’t make the grade (literally) and think how they feel about school. If it were me, I’d be looking for, planning for and waiting to escape. Jobs for high-school dropouts with literacy problems aren’t well-paying, if they exist at all. You get the picture.

This is my second year as a volunteer. For a very small time invested, (2 hours initial training and 30 minutes a week) my rewards are rich. Last year, my student was a third grader who wrote me a note after each reading session and hugged me good-bye. She told me about being the youngest child in her mom’s family and the oldest in her dad’s because her dad’s girlfriend just had a baby. I put two and two together and figured (rightly or wrongly) that this didn’t provide a stable environment. Even as a single mother, I spent hours reading with my son, literally from the day he was born. Reading, studies and a stable environment are a priority in our home. I didn’t sense she had this herself.

My current student is a fourth grader. We’ve gotten to know each other over the last couple months and she’s an enthusiastic reader. Last week she came in wearing glasses (new for her) and beaded bracelets and necklaces. The jewelry was a gift for her “friend-a-versary” – a celebration with her best friend. She told me that her friends help her keep her light, that when she’s feeling down, her friends keep her up. All this from a ten year old.

I see the light in her eyes when she adds new learned words to her banner on the wall. In order to get added, the word must be spelled correctly six times and written in a sentence. I love to watch her walk around the room, checking out the other banners, sometimes counting their words and comparing her own. She doesn’t get discouraged by this comparison – I see her strengthen her own resolve.

The highlight was this past week when she had to use the word “valuable” in her sentence. “My tutor is valuable.”

Yeah. I did almost start crying. At the same time, my heart was so full of joy at the impact of my thirty minutes a week. Watching a child develop and grow – seeing a young girl reach for her goals and achieve them – does it get any better?

Readers and writers. I’m keeping my eyes on this girl. We may likely find her gracing bookshelves and best-seller lists in the future. And that’s just so much better than being a statistic for future prison-building.

The End of the World

There’s nothing like the world ending to bring about change. My world ended already – so much changed in my life this past year that it’s almost unrecognizable. I’m in a new world now, so it stands to reason that the old world is gone.

Looking back to January, I sense that I’ve shed an old skin, emerged from a cocoon. I wore a skin woven from uncertain threads, decorated with shades of fear, and covered completely with a colorful, protective shield. I was always a filtered version of myself, but never completely, wholly me. I worried about what people thought. When I assumed, it was never the best possible outcome. If the world did anything, I didn’t imagine that it conspired in my favor. If I let you in, it was to show you my best side, just deeper.

Not until I began to question my patterns of intimacy and fear did I wonder if I were more of my problem than a solution.

I’ve always wanted control. My past relationships reflect my desire for control as well as my fear of true intimacy. To be vulnerable, to risk rejection of the real me I kept hidden and safe, I’d rather die a thousand times. It was so easy to be the one who was loved, rather than to risk loving and losing. But to be in control of a loving relationship, minimizing the risk of loss and hurt, was to leave the largest part of my heart alone.

I’d like to take credit for taking a risk with love. I’d like to think that I finally just grew up and decided to change my ways. I will say that I did a lot of studying this year, learning about fear, rejection, vulnerability, dysfunctional patterns. Thanks to authors like Paulo Coehlo, Don Miguel Ruiz, and Mastin Kipp, I began to accept responsibility for my own thought patterns and self-sabotaging beliefs. I realized how many times I’d felt needless hurt, taking others’ actions and words personally, assuming the worst, not asking questions. For the first time in my life, I’m trusting my heart, looking for answers that support my dreams, and believing in love. Instead of lying to myself and saying I didn’t want or need love (the romantic kind), I’ve opened my heart to the future.

By taking responsibility for my reactions and desires, I’ve opened the door to new friends and relationships. When I enter a room, I feel a new energy that propels me toward others. Still not an extrovert, I now stretch my hand toward others, whether known or unknown. I’ve met so many new friends this year, and from a friendship standpoint alone, I’ve enjoyed a rare gift.

And so 2011 has been a transitional year to my new world. I will arrive at the shore of 2012, ready to explore this wondrous, amazing place.

My new world is filled with love. I’ve learned to embrace the past, accept and appreciate my demons and expect the best, at least most of the time. Like any new habit, the more I practice the better I get. The better I get, the better I feel. Love.

After the Marathon

Two months ago I walked 26.2 miles. In eight hours. Following popular advice, I took the next week off but then the week after that, and another, until I found myself restless and without a goal. Every morning I would tell myself that today I’d get back into “it.” Like having post-partum blues, everything I’d worked toward, the weekly goals that supported my end-goal, I found myself with nothing to look forward to. My routine neighborhood walks became a memory, and I missed my streets. Driving to the grocery, I looked at the sidewalks and pictured myself walking with my dog, water bottle, lip balm, plastic bags – for five months I’d trained on these roads. I missed the ‘hood.

Did I need a new goal? Was pre-winter the best time to begin a new training plan? Sure, I walk year-round and often share the fact that winter is my favorite time to walk. So, I looked up walking plans at www.thewalkingsite.com and found one for maintenance walks; I’d be able to keep up my momentum during the off-season and at least pick up a half-marathon or two. If, that is, I wanted to do a rotating three-week plan with long weekend walks of 6, 9, and 12 miles. Throw in some yoga or cross-training a couple times a week, shorter walks on the weekdays and I’d be set. It sounded great but I still didn’t start walking again. Would I ever? How did I make myself do it before?

I threw away the big plans and got back to basics. Three miles a day is good for both my dog and me. Cross-training on my exercise bike once or twice a week with some strengthening (lunges, planks, push-ups) thrown in for good measure and I’m calling it good. I’ll put in a longer walk on Saturday, nothing drastic, maybe four – maybe six miles. Tops. So, I’m doing it. And it feels good. I’m even logging my miles for all the world to see at www.dailymile.com.

My neighborhood has changed in the last two months. The leaves are gone. Privacy that hid the small lake at the bottom of the hill disappeared with the leaves and the waters spread out before me. I can follow the crimson flash of a cardinal through the woods. Garden beds have been cleared; lawns are neat and raked clean. Walking in the dark and the smell of wood smoke isn’t far behind.

I’m not breaking any records. I’m back to doing what I do best and that is walking. I’m an endurance athlete, if anything, and newly comfortable even calling myself an athlete. But if I have a marathon under my belt, I’m claiming the title.

Burn the Bridge

You could be the fortunate man of my dreams. Really. Let me explain. Maybe I’m too trusting; perhaps I’m what some would call naïve. If a man acts a certain way, tells me certain things and in general, leads me to believe that he’s genuinely taken with me, I believe him. I’m also embarrassed to admit that I’ve credited those early behaviors long after reality indicates otherwise. I make excuses. I create a man in my imagination, giving him motivations, reasons, impulses … an entire secret life where he longs for me but is unable to express himself. If he’s Prince Charming, I’m waiting for him to awaken from his magical sleep, not me.

A dream man is actually very convenient. We don’t squabble or argue. I know he’s in love with me, so there are no worries there. We may see each other, talk, hang out … and I wait for him to act. Why do I believe he has a secret heart, waiting for the right moment? Because I’ve done this myself, too nervous and unsure to reveal my feelings, hoping the guy would “get it” without my telling him, hoping he would want me enough to overcome the fact that I’ve never shown an interest beyond friends. Who would call this healthy behavior?

My sister asked me recently if I’d ever considered really wanting a true love, a soul mate, the man of my (real) dreams. I told her I had one. (Yes, he’s Dream Man.)

“So you will spend the next fifty years waiting for him to show his love, not getting anything you need for your heart beyond friendship.” (My sister.)

Well, when you put it like that, it sounds pretty pathetic. I know. It accounts for the fact that I’ve turned away from interesting men who have been interested in me. Oh, I’ve considered them … feeling guilty and disloyal. The truth of the matter is that nobody has what I consider DM’s best qualities.

“How do you know?” (My sister again.)

I meet men all the time, but seriously, nobody attracts me like DM. Of course, it’s impossible, because I’ve created him. But like beautiful chalk drawings, side-walk art that captures my eye and imagination, at some point the rain comes. When the sun returns, there’s nothing but empty concrete. It’s time for a rain shower. I’m letting him go and considering the fact that there are rainbows I’ve missed.

I’m letting myself consider someone new and I’m cheered by the fact that he’s not anything like DM. Yes, he’s smart and funny, but I’m not looking for qualities that remind me of you-know-who. New Guy stands on his own – not as a ghost or substitute.

The bridge burns. The real man, who didn’t know or perhaps didn’t care, that he existed in my mind, stands on the other side, unaware. I’m on this side now, nervous, free, alone. My heart, open. My mind, unencumbered.

Stepping into new territory, choosing a new path and keeping an open mind. I know what I want and I’m going to find it. And if I go without, it will be real.

Drinking Poison

I drink a little poison every day. Sometimes I’ll have a sip first thing in the morning, even when I’ve sworn off the stuff. I admit I’m a closet drinker; I have it down to a science – nobody can tell when I imbibe. If it doesn’t hurt anybody else, is there a problem? Except I finally decided that the person it hurts is me, so I’m quitting. For good. Cold turkey. (As much as possible.)

My two favorite poisons are guilt and excuses. Both are instant pick-me-uppers, making me feel better without taking any action. A good guilt trip will keep me going for days and the beauty of it is that I don’t need to do anything. Just thinking about what I’ve done wrong, or what I should have done and didn’t, is enough to maintain my guilty high.

Guilt is the whiskey and excuses are the chaser. I prefer excuses over reasons. Oh, I’ll call them reasons, but they are really the permission slip that allows me to do what I want. The excuse excuses me from blame. Excuses help me point the finger at people, places and things. Excuses allow me to live blameless in my guilt, skipping happily down a road going nowhere.

But I need to get out of this cycle of going nowhere. I’m tired of finding myself weighed down by old dreams and telling myself the same lies about why I carry those burdens.

I’m side-stepping the 12-step program and creating my own 2-step plan:

Step 1: Replace. I intend to replace these two emotional poisons with something real. Guilt will be replaced by remorse. Excuses will be replaced by action.

Step 2: Move On. Stop wallowing. Stop making excuses for myself and others. Step over the debris and keep heading down the path.

It won’t be perfect but I’m not going to use that as an excuse. I’m not going to feel guilty if I slip. Every time I find myself feeling guilty, I’m going to decide if I’m truly remorseful, and if not, then I’ll release the guilt. If I’m truly remorseful, I’ll do what needs to be done – without excuse. When I find myself sipping excuses’ saccharined nectar, I’ll look at what can be done, do it or just move on. Sans excuse.

Why? Life is short and it gets shorter every day. I need to keep moving down my path, not walking in place. My childhood, my physical appearance, my finances, my past failures … none of this holds me in place. This is me and I have today.

Replace. Move on.