Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Vehicular Anger Management

Guys, Las Vegas is not a fun place to drive. Neither is Utah. But add to the obliviousness and stupidity of Utah drivers the bad and uncertain driving of countless tourists (I'm lookin' at YOU, California) as well as a general tendency to imbibe, and you have a cesspool of bad driving.

I spend roughly two minutes of my commute on the freeway, and by the end of that two minutes I'm glad I don't have a gun in the car. After that, I spend fifteen minutes trying not to kill or be killed on Flamingo Road. So much weaving in and out. So much tail-gaiting.

Surprisingly few accidents...

But to the point! SO MUCH BAD DRIVING.

I didn't notice it at first. I was too busy trying to get from point A to B. In fact, now that I think about it, I was once probably one of those oblivious out-of-towners making everyone else nervous with my erratic driving.

Now it may surprise some of you that I have anger issues. Oh yes. I get pissed when people do things in cars that put me in danger. My commute is neither long nor arduous--a mere 20 minutes both ways--but I realized that 40 minutes of anger everyday was kind of ruining my day. I realized I can't control what other drivers do, but I COULD change the mood in my own car. So here's what I do. And because I love numbered lists...

1. Music.
DUH. Music is a huge mood changer. It can make the most monotonous drive epic. Or wondrously melancholy. Or surprisingly fun. Also, I sing in the car--and I don't mean to brag or anything but I'm pretty great. <*sarcasm*>

2. "Car Talk."
Not all NPR. Specifically "Car Talk." It's on every Saturday on my drive to work. You would think a radio show about cars would bring my attention back to my drive, but on the contrary. It is very agreeably distracting. I can't help but start my day in a good mood.

3. Leaving with plenty of time.
This is a huge one. My road rage is exactly proportional to my lateness. The person going 55mph on the freeway goes from Kind of Clueless to The Worst Human Being in the Universe. When I've got time and to spare, who cares if I just missed the twelfth light in a row? (Well, I still care. But I feel less inclined to yell at inanimate objects.)

What do you do to stave of Road Rage? I need all the help I can get.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Workout Diary: Day 374

 For those of you just joining me on this roller-coaster, let me direct you to my first workout diary from last year.

Today, I'm doing yoga at home, in my pajamas. I warm up for a few minutes, stretching over one leg and then the other, rolling my neck around, waking up my back with cat-cow stretches. Then I go right into my vinyasa flow. It's amazing how much I can get my heart rate going with just a few push-ups, downward-facing dogs and jumping forward. I move fast. I don't linger too long in any position. I want to work my heart.

I'm not going to bore you with anymore details about my workout today. What I want to record for myself here is that I am strong. I can work myself out. I do can do it at a gym, or at home; I am not dependent on anyone else; I am not tied down to a specific type of exercise. I am flexible. I can touch my toes again. When I'm warm, I can palm the ground. I am not immobilized by sore muscles after every workout anymore. I am healthy, even though I weigh the same as I did a year ago. If you've read the first post, you know how much of an issue my weight has been for me. But I will tell you--and me--this: I AM HEALTHY.  I am exercising, I am eating and I am sleeping well. It occurs to me that maybe this is just my healthy weight for now. The best news is that I haven't lost anymore weight. The status has remained quo.

My new goals now are to beef up my deltoids and chest muscles.  I have "wide, childbearing hips," as T jokingly likes to remind me :), and narrow shoulders. I would love to balance out the aesthetic a little bit. Also, I want to be able to do the splits by the end of the year. This will be difficult since I've never really been able to do the splits with any consistency, even back when I was dancing. It's more just to say that I can rather than serving any real purpose. (This, coming from the girl who, when she was seven, spent a solid week teaching herself how to do a loud whistle with fingers in her mouth. This also coming from the girl who spent another week of life committing to memory the solving of a Rubik's cube. What can I say? I am a living, breathing parlor trick.)

Thanks, everyone, for the encouragement. It's been a really good year.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

"The Queen of Versailles"

I know it isn't polite to talk about money--well, I'm learning that it isn't. But it seems like everyone has been talking about money for the last four or five years, so why not me? Anyway, I have mentioned on this blog and elsewhere that T and I have been through a tight time financially these past few months. We're out of the worst of it now (thanks to a new disbursement of student loans) but we have learned some--I think--extraordinarily valuable lessons.


Tonight I watched a documentary called Queen of Versailles. The cover features a blond, boobed, botoxed forty-something trophy wife of the guy who was building what turned out to be the biggest home in America. I've recently discovered the wealth of documentaries available on Netflix, and I clicked on this one for a lark, thinking it would be some Jersey Shore rip-off that I would watch for about five minutes out of curiosity and then turn off in disgust or boredom. One hour and forty minutes later, I now think I know the secret to being happy for the rest of my life. And I'll give you a hint: It's not money.

The film opens with a portrait of an evidently happy, if not slightly unequal, marriage. The husband is a time-share mogul in his seventies, his wife, a mother of eight in her forties. Both come from humble backgrounds. One of them built an empire. The other inherited it by marriage. They have everything: Private jets, limos and drivers, maids, nannies, and a net worth of $1 billion. Their current house is enormous, but it isn't big enough so they are building an even larger mansion whose design is based on Versailles, the French palace of Louis XIV.

Then the financial crisis of 2008 hits--and it hits the family hard. Huge real-estate ventures go into default and eventually foreclosure. Construction is halted on the Versailles house. The family is forced to cut back. No more private jets, drivers, fewer maids... Even the Versailles house is put up for sale. It becomes quickly evident that the house they live in is colossally mismanaged. Junk litters almost every surface. Pet reptiles and fish die of neglect in their aquaria. More than once, a member of the household steps in dog poo in the house.

The portrait of the evidently happy marriage begins to fall apart. The husband literally cannot separate work from personal life. He is desperately unhappy about his financial situation, and his mood affects the whole family. The worst of it is, he doesn't seem to communicate any of this to his wife, whom he regards not as a partner but more like one of his adult children--a liability, essentially. Rather than saying to her something like, "Hey, maybe we shouldn't buy all of these useless gifts for Christmas--board games we already have, bikes that will not be ridden, etc.--let's cut back," (I mean, it's not like they were destitute) he just blows up about something like all the lights in the house being on and the electric bill. His moods and tempers seem to be totally irrational to the rest of his young family.

The oldest daughter is actually an adopted niece who literally came from sleeping in the streets to living this opulent lifestyle says it all. When she was poor she looked at people like the Siegels and thought "What could they ever want?" They have it all. But then, she says, "You get used to it. And then you just keep wanting more, and nothing is enough." Bad news when you can't have everything.

It was a very fascinating, sobering, peek into a lifestyle of which I have no experience whatsoever. I come from a very middle-class upbringing. I never wanted for anything, but I didn't get everything I wanted either. Most of the toys I owned I bought with my own money that I earned cleaning the house or doing yard work. I still have all of my plastic horse collection because I cannot bear to give it away. It took me years to build up, and I took care of them. Now, I spend my money on more prosaic things. Like food. And electricity. And sometimes a new pair of pants.

I learned--or rather, remembered--something tonight as I watched this film. It was this: If you want to be happy, stop pining for what you don't have and take care of what you've got. Put your clothes away. Make your bed. Use the food in your fridge. Wash your dishes. Exercise yourself.

It's so simple it can be summed up in a well-worn cliche: Waste not. Want not. We can be happy with less. Why is it so hard to remember?

hoop-de-do