The Practice That Keeps Calling Me Back

I’ve tried to develop many different skills and habits in my life. Music, dance, learning a foreign language, painting, fire dancing, coding, and several others are all things that I’ve dabbled in from time-to-time. None of them really stuck and, to be honest, I never really felt enough passion to push through with them. For example, I may have a vague love of the concept of learning to play an instrument but it never develops beyond buying a bass guitar, fiddling with it for a few minutes occasionally, and then letting it gather dust in the corner.

I love the idea of learning new skills or improving my life or creating something more than I actually love the act of learning new skills, improving my life, or creating something. I think the disconnect comes from not being convinced of the long-term benefits of these interests. I have a very difficult time viewing any of these things as having value beyond the process itself. I guess I’m too “goal oriented” in this respect (huh, this is the first time I’ve come to this conclusions… this is why I love writing my thoughts out).

Anyway, one area where I have consistently come back to over the last several years is mindfulness meditation. I feel like I fail at it constantly and the practice is difficult for me to keep up with most days, but I keep trying because I’m convinced by the science that it can improve my life. Also, it seems that the world’s high performers all practice some sort of meditation or at least all the ones that talk with Tim Ferriss do.

With regular practice mindfulness meditation has been shown to:

  • Decrease anxiety, depression, and irritability
  • Memory improves, reaction times become faster, and both mental and physical stamina increase
  • Help create better and more fulfilling relationships
  • Reduce key indicators of chronic stress, including hypertension
  • Reduce the impact of serious conditions such as chronic pain and cancer
  • Relieve drug and alcohol dependence
  • Bolster the immune system to fight colds, the flu, and other diseases

That all sounds great but if you are like me that fifth point should give you some pause. Cancer? Can it help with cancer? That is a huge red flag. As Dr. Sydney Mcelroy from the amazing medical history podcast, “Sawbones” says, “If something claims it can cure everything than in reality it can cure nothing.” There are no medical panaceas and inflated claims of treating cancer usually means that someone is a snake-oil salesman (sidenote: this is one of my main issues with marijuana advocates, they tend to rely on shitty science or untested hypothesis to treat the drug as a cure-all which only discredits the actual medicinal uses of it).

So, to discuss the seemingly magical properties of meditation. First, it doesn’t cure anything but it can help reduce problems with serious issues. It is not a substitute for medical care but it is a free supplement that won’t cause any harm.  For those interested in the actual study on meditation and cancer the article is “A randomized, wait-list controlled trial: the effect of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction program on mood and symptoms of stress in cancer outpatients,” Psychosomatic Medicine, 62, pp 613-22 by Speca, Carlson, Goodey, and Angen.

Basically, meditation helps with stress and because stress fucks us up so bad and can really affect our health the meditation has a nearly universal benefit. But, like all things, it should be met with healthy skepticism and new research should be considered. At the very least though, I’m confident saying that there is no harm in starting a meditation practice and I think there is the potential for huge benefits.

So, I’m diving back into it again but this time I have more support than in the past. My therapist recommended that I join a mindfulness meditation group at the VA that meets weekly and I decided to do it. It is an interesting experience being in a group therapy session, I’ve never done something like this before. I think it will be good for me though, at the very least it will be good to have an explicit plan laid out for me so that I’m not just bouncing around on my own. I’m sure I’ll have more to report on during the eight weeks of the program.

If you are interested in trying mindfulness or reading about it here are my favorite resources on the subject, or you can send me a message (contact info below):

  • “Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman – The plan I’m using over the next eight weeks
  • “Why Buddhism is True” by Robert Wright – A scientific and secular look at many of Buddhisms claims and practices, including meditation
  • Headspace app – My ‘go to’ for guided meditation, there are tons of different courses and they have a new meditation each day
  • “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn – A beast of a book that I haven’t read yet but was recommended for the group therapy program I’m in
  • “Hardcore Zen” by Brad Warner – A free-wheeling, DIY discussion of zazen Buddhism and meditation. It is more story than practice but shows how meditation helped the author.
  • “Run For Your Life” by William Pullen – Taking mindfulness off the cushion and into the world
  • “10% Happier” by Dan Harris – A memoir-style book by journalist Dan Harris that discusses how meditation helped him after having a panic attack on the air
  • “Everyday Zen” by Charlotte Joko Beck – An application of meditation to psychology
  • “Mind Over Mood” by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky – Another recommendation from my therapist, I haven’t read it yet.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Week 9 Update

April has started off a little hit-or-miss for me. The beginning of this week was pretty solid, I stayed on task with my plan (mostly) and got a lot accomplished. But things kind of sputtered around Wednesday. I conducted an AAR (after action review) of the days I didn’t hit my goals to evaluate what went wrong and I was able to narrow it down to really an issue of planning. I overzealously planned my days and ended up feeling defeated when I didn’t hit my goals.

One major area was planning things for when Anna is home. Her days off kind of fluctuate each week and it is really difficult for me to bunker down and focus when she is here. I can usually do it for an hour or three but my daily plans are basically shot. Sometimes the distraction is legitimate like running errands and such. Sometimes it is less so, my morning routine takes much longer with someone else in the house than when I’m alone and the morning routine really sets the mood for the day.

So, what actions can I take in the future to prevent this? I think a big one is to try and take the same day off of work as her. Another one is to be more vocal about my need for time alone to be productive. Lastly, the tasks for days she is off work should really be minimal.

The second area of planning was unrealistic fitness goals. I had the goal of running a total of 25 miles each week this month and really only got about half of it. Part of it was a lack of time, I had a massage scheduled this week, a meeting with the organization I volunteer for, an mindfulness group meeting at scheduled phone meeting with an old friend, and a final walk-thru of the house we are buying. Basically, just about every single day had a multi-hour block that was dedicated to something that wasn’t my monthly goals (more on my goals below). Additionally, I overestimated my fitness and tried to run too much too soon, which burnt me out big time.

The actions to help with this is again more realistic goals at the beginning of the week. And I’m scheduling in some time on Saturday to take care of any goals that I miss.

The goals and tracking I’m using is based in part on books like Deep Work, the 4-Hour Workweek, and a great conversation I had with a close friend 10 days ago. I have a white board with the following stuff written on it:

 

Weekly Goal (Week 2):

  • Gym three times this week
  • Run 20 miles
  • Study massage for three hours
  • Work 25 hours
  • Complete 56-Hour Fast
  • Finish Taxes
  • Implement Part II of 4-Hour Workweek

 

Monthly Goal (April):

  • Weigh 165 lbs
  • Complete 4-day fast
  • Run 100 miles (reduced to 80 miles after week 1)
  • Pay State Taxes
  • Credit Card Debt = $0
  • 12 hours of massage study

 

3-Month Goal (by July 1):

  • 155 lbs
  • Complete Blue Clay Breakout
  • Total Debt ~ $52,000
  • Pay two quarterly tax bills
  • Complete End-Of-Life Duola Program
  • Implement 4-Hour Workweek Completely

 

1-Year Goal (April 2019):

  • 15% Body Fat
  • Run a marathon
  • Student Loans ~ $27,000
  • $5,000 passive annual income
  • Complete Massage Therapy Program
  • Volunteer at hospital, hospice, VA, etc.

 

4-Year Goal (April 2022):

  • 10% Body Fat, ~ 170 lbs
  • Run a 100-mile trail run
  • Non-mortgage debt = $0
  • $20,000 passive annual income
  • Business plan developed for end-of-life facility

 

Motivation to stay financially and physically fit!

  • May 10-15 – Friend visiting!
  • May 17-21 – INELDA  in Toronto
  • May 26 – Blue Clay Breakout
  • June 22-25 – Kesha in Austin
  • July 22-28 – RAGBRAI
  • August 25 – September 3 – Iceland!
  • October – Start massage school

It can be hard to focus on the day-to-day tasks that are necessary to accomplish my goals. Keeping the goals literally in plain sight helps me with that. I definitely need to keep tinkering with my shorter term goals and allow for flexibility, but I am still optimistic that this plan can work out.

This next week I have a lot fewer things on my radar and hopefully, I can have a really solid and productive time.

 

Fitness-wise, I feel like I’ve hit a bit of a plateau. When I look at both the objective measurements and how I look in the mirror I really don’t see much progress over the last couple of weeks. I think part of it is recovering from a mediocre March and part of it is just a need for a rededication to the cause.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

A Mirror of My Fears

I really don’t like going to the VA Medical Center. It isn’t really the bureaucracy or the building or anything like that. In fact, the employees and structure are quite nice here in Wilmington. I’ve received good care from polite and friendly staff. The building is clean, modern, and has some decent amenities (though, I wish they’d get something other than processed junk in the cafe area… is it really that difficult to have a banana or apples or something available?).

No, my discomfort and dislike come more from my fellow veterans.

I realize how shitty and pretentious that sounds.

I spent some time today giving some thought to my own negative emotions about the men and women who are seeking help from the VA and I realized my emotions are a reflection of my own fear. This fear takes two specific forms: health and achievements.

When at the VA I am surrounded by people who have significant medical problems. Many, if not most, of these problems seem to be related to obesity. I think this is part of the reason that I’ve been prioritizing activity and nutrition in my life more recently. As I spend more time at the VA I see what happens when you don’t take care of yourself and that scares the shit out of me.

I want to be able to climb mountains, much less stairs, without being defeated. I want to be healthy enough to dance at my nieces and nephew’s weddings instead of being winded. And, if I’m being totally honest, I want to feel like I’m sexy and attractive to the lovely men and women out there. Of course, there is a possibility that something will happen to me that prevents this despite my best efforts, but if I don’t take care of myself now then I guarantee that I won’t be able to be strong later. Going to the VA is a ghost of Christmas future and shows what I could become.

At first, I thought the health fear was the only thing that made me feel uncomfortable at the VA. After some more thought, I found something else that was a bit more subconscious, the idea of limited achievements in life. Many veterans, whether they served 4 years or twenty years, make that time period the focal point of their lives. They wear clothing daily and maintain haircuts that reflects their time in the service. It becomes all they are known for and they dwell on it.

Again, that scares the shit out of me.

I don’t want to be known for what I did for 5% of my life when I was basically a kid. It feels so one-dimensional to me. I want more for my life than any single role or experience. So many of the people that I have trouble relating to seem to be obsessed with only one thing… military service or being a parent or being a libertarian. I want more than just one identity, I want to be more than I was. Going to the VA is the ghost of Christmas past and shows me who I was.

As I gave it even more thought I realized that these two fears are really the manifestation of a single fear, the fear of a wasted life. I probably only have one life and I’m probably going to die someday. My greatest fear is that that time will be wasted. I don’t need to accomplish EVERYTHING on my list (spoiler: probably impossible), but I want to keep active and accomplish as much of it as I can. I think that is where a lot of my anxiety comes from, I’m worried that I’m a waste. That I’m am taking this beautiful gift of life and poisoning it by putting garbage in my body and by choosing existing over living.

It is actually kind of weird. I’m an atheist and don’t really feel like I “owe” anyone. This gift of life doesn’t really have a source, but I feel an obligation to make the most out of it. Maybe it would be easier if I was still a Christian, then I would have the added pressure of feeling like I was disrespecting God when I eat fast food, don’t exercise, or lounge in front of the tv instead of reading, writing, exploring.

Instead, I’ve got to motivate myself and I think this fear serves me well in that motivation. I feel kind of shitty for reducing the people I see at the VA to little more than motivational tools, but that is what I seem to be doing. I fear becoming the person they represent in my mind, not the real them (I don’t even know the real them). They are archetypes and stereotypes that I don’t want to see in myself. I don’t know if this superficial analysis is a good thing or not, but it is honestly what I’m doing… and I can’t grow and improve unless I’m honest with myself and keep asking myself why I feel the way I do.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Speaking Love

A friend of mine recently posted a quick summary of the Five Love Languages (see the bottom of the page) that got me thinking again. For those unfamiliar with them, the “five love languages” are the five ways that we each express and experience love. It was developed by Dr. Gary Chapman, a pastor in North Carolina.

I first read the book (creatively titled, “The Five Love Languages”) years ago and, despite a bunch of unnecessary religious stuff, found it very valuable. It really helped me to think about how I express love and how I prefer to receive it. I was able to more clearly communicate with my partner to make sure both of our desires were met. It is so common for relationships to involve a level of miscommunication because those involved speak a different love language.

I have two primary love languages that I think shift slightly in importance depending on the person or circumstances.  I tend to interpret “Words of Affirmation” as a sign that someone loves me or cares for my well-being. Hearing that someone loves me or that they appreciate me or value my writing means the world to me. I also really value “Physical Touch”.  When I love someone I tend to want to hug them, hold hands, and curl up with them on the couch. This goes for friendships as well and I think it is a shame that there isn’t more hugging, kissing, cuddling, hand-holding, and physical touch in non-romantic relationships (but that is probably a different blog post).

I’m pretty neutral on two of the love languages (“Quality Time” and “Acts of Service”) but one love language actually makes me feel uncomfortable usually. “Receiving Gifts” makes me feel awkward. I am TERRIBLE at both receiving and giving gifts. I feel uncomfortable, guilty, and self-conscious. I know logically it is an act of love from friends but it ties my insides up in knots.

So, if you are interested in figuring out your love language I highly recommend taking the little quiz at this website (it is in PDF form as well if you don’t want to hand over your email address) and try to get your partner and friends to do it as well. It can really open up communication and increase your understanding of each other. And if you know how other people receive the love you can speak their language and be a better partner/friend/parent to them.

The Love Languages:

Words of Affirmation – Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important – hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.

Quality Time – In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really there – with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all the chores or tasks on standby – makes them feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.

Receiving Gifts – Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous – so would the absence of everyday gestures.

Acts of Service – Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Act of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.

Physical Touch – This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, playing with hair (my favorite), and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face – they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.

 

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Content Without

“Although a relationship might contribute to our happiness, our happiness must transcend the relationship. Ensuring that peace of mind is not dependent on any one thing or one person.” -Daily Headspace meditation (4/4/2018)

In 2005 my engagement to Leslie ended in an explosive fashion. There was screaming, ring-throwing, and anger on both sides. It took a few days, but eventually, I adjusted to living without her but not a day went by that I didn’t long for her to walk back in the door. She was manipulative, abusive, cheated on me, but I still wanted her. We had been together for two years and I didn’t know how to experience joy without her.

I soon drowned myself in people in order to be happy. For about a month I sought out one-night stands and eventually started dating Amy, a wonderful woman who I had no business dating. I hate to admit it, but I was with her to cover the misery in my heart. She deserved a lot better and I knew it at the time. Despite the happiness, she brought me I had a growing guilt inside me for staying with her when I knew that our lives were not on the same path and I broke up with her after about a year of dating.

For the next five or so years I managed to stay out of any personal relationship where my happiness was linked to the person. In fact, I kept a strong emotional barrier between myself and the people I cared about. Instead, I latched on to the libertarian ideology and economics. Instead of finding happiness in people I found it in an identity.

I guess this was better because it meant I wasn’t hurting anyone else, but it was only incrementally better for me. I was still attaching happiness outside of myself. This period pretty much ended when I hit my lowest point… drunk on my bed with a gun in my hand ready to end it all. Luckily, that low point wasn’t my endpoint.

The next several years involved a lot of self-examination and pursuit of health improvements. I had relationships but they didn’t involve an over-attachment or forced detachment. I wasn’t exactly healthy but I was, as Dan Savage puts it, “in good working order”. I became content with myself and was able to envision happiness even if I lost the people, roles, and things I cared about. I didn’t know it at the time but I was exercising a lot of practices that the ancient Stoics encourage (and later when I discovered Stoicism I was able to start implementing these practices more consistently and consciously).

I think most people agree that it is dangerous to attach your happiness to a romantic partner. When two people come together they should be independent enough to thrive without each other. The overall relationship dynamic should be one where you both lift each other up instead of one person disproportionately carrying the emotional weight for the other. If you suddenly end up without that person you should know you will be okay. Going into a relationship content to live without that person strengthens it further.

It seems less common, but maybe more important, to apply that same standard to other relationships. The most powerful connection is from a parent to a child but we should have the same ability to maintain our happiness independence in this relationship. To latch on to the parent identity is to set oneself up for pain unnecessarily. Eventually, that role of parent will end. Hopefully, it won’t involve the death of a child (but it might) and will be because the child grows up to be a responsible, independent adult. But either way, the role of parent will die and if happiness is attached to that identity then the individual will suffer. All things are ephemeral.

It isn’t only people that can bring about unhealthy attachment and dependence for happiness. Passion projects and other things that bring us joy we can become dangerously dependant on. I love cycling, it brings me great happiness, but there is a chance that I’ll walk outside tomorrow and get hit by a car and lose my legs. I also love reading, but I may come down with a disease that takes away my sight, or even all my senses. Will I be able to be happy? I hope so.

I think about these things, not to dwell or worry about them but because I don’t want to take anything for granted. I love the feeling of the wind on my face more when I realize that I may lose it at any moment. The joy that comes from a hot bath is intensified when I know that it may be my last. I feel the connection with my partner more deeply because I know she is mortal and our relationship will not last forever. Taking a moment to think about losing everything and how I will deal with that situation provides me with appreciation and knowledge of my own strength because I know I will be okay.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Sun Kissed Cheeks

My partner and I went to the house we are buying last weekend to check out how much sun different parts of the yard get. The primary reason was to plan our vegetable garden. We learned a lesson or three trying to plant this year and we want to make the necessary adjustments to have a more robust harvest of veggies.

There was a secondary reason for me, though. I wanted to see how much sun different parts of the fenced-in backyard gets. It isn’t a huge space and has a high fence that I thought was going to keep the yard shaded most of the day. Luckily, I was wrong because I want to be able to hang out naked in my yard.

I love being naked outdoors and I miss being able to do that. When I lived in California I had access to clothing-optional beaches, as well as friends who were comfortable being nude together. It wasn’t a sexual thing or something that happened regularly, we all just were comfortable being nude if that was what we preferred.

We have such magical bodies and it is unfortunate that there is so much shame and discomfort around them. We are rarely exposed to nudity except in a sexual context or when we see beautiful people on tv. We have this distorted view of how varied and beautiful we all are. Our bodies are gifts and we should explore them and experience them in every possible way.

Every time I see a friend or “real person” nude it helps desexualize the body and makes me appreciate the great diversity of forms that we can all take. The spastic puritanism and oversexualized American culture has destroyed our ability to have an unbiased and healthy perspective of our own selves. And that is a shame. I love participating in things like the Naked Bike Ride, clothing-optional festivals, pool parties with uninhibited people, etc. It just helps me have a healthier appreciation for my body and a more accurate view of what people are like.

So, I’m excited to have a place with both sunlight and privacy from the outside world (I wish nudity wasn’t that big of a deal publicly but that isn’t the world we live in). Hopefully, in the next month or so I’ll be able to stroll out the door, lay down a towel, and enjoy nature in my natural state.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

It Isn’t Complicated

I know what I must do. I think we all intuitively do. The path towards health, creation, and happiness is generally pretty simple. If I want to get in shape I need to drink more water, cut out caloric drinks, eat a plant-based whole foods diet, be active, minimize processed foods, and get plenty of sleep. It is really that simple. But it can be so fucking difficult for me.

To become a writer I need to sit down at my computer and write. No amount of reading about writing or planning about writing or researching publishing options is going to put words on the page. I need to block off time every day and just write. But I don’t. Instead, I clean my house or go for a walk or set up a “writing plan” for the hundredth time.

So, why is this so hard for me? I think it comes down to two issues.

First, habits die hard. Habits are easy, they are comfortable, they provide stability. But ease, comfort, and stability are the enemy of a full life. We need difficulty, discomfort, and disruption to reach our potential. There is no feeling of fulfillment or accomplishment from an easy life. But my evolutionary past has selected for the easiest life possible in order to conserve energy. The truth is, I have plenty of stored energy (just look at my love handles), what I need is to struggle and burn and cry… but my habits work against that. They work against my health and happiness. At least I know I’m not alone, there are entire non-fiction genres dedicated to this issue and overcoming it that include books like “The Power of Habit” and “Emotional Alchemy”. It may sound shitty, but I get a little bit of comfort from knowing that I’m not alone in the temptation to choose an easy existence over a difficult life.

Second, the unknown can be paralyzing. I like how Tim Ferriss said it in “4- Hour Workweek”:

Most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty.

I know I certainly have. I look at the ideas I want to write and I’m unhappy, but I’m uncertain if I have the skill to put it on paper. I’m uncertain if my time will be wasted. I’m uncertain if people will laugh at me or judge me or ridicule me for trying to be something I fear that I’m not, a writer. (Sidebar: My therapist and I chatted about this a little last week and I think the CBT exercises can help me with this type of thinking.)

I’ve stayed in bad, abusive relationships because it felt better than being alone. Better to be unhappy with someone than potentially unhappy alone… right? But I know that is a false dichotomy and once I broke up with my abusive partner I ended up much happier, and because of that decision I found my current partner and created my current badass life. I knew for months that the relationship was bad, that it was unhappy, that I would never be fulfilled, that we wanted different things. But I stayed because uncertainty froze me like Palom and Porom.

So, how can I overcome this? I don’t have a good answer to that. Certainly, having a plan and principles is a good start. But a plan is pretty worthless if I don’t follow through with it. That is where principles come in, but historically I’ve been a lackluster follower of self-imposed principles (except veganism). The interesting thing is, I tend to do MUCH better with my physical health goals than my writing goals. I wonder if on a subconscious (and conscious) level I want abs more than I want to be a writer. Or maybe the discomfort and fear I feel when I think about writing is much higher than running.

All I really know is that identifying this problem and blogging about it makes an incremental change in my behavior in the right direction. Recognizing the issue and knowing that when I am tempted to do the dishes instead of writing or eat an Orea instead almonds it is because of bad habits and fear. Knowing the source will help me address it, which is the first step in overcoming fear and changing habits.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Abstinence April

Another month is behind us and spring is starting to rear its beautiful head here in Wilmington. It is a time of rebirth and optimism, an opportunity to institute some changes into my life and I’ve decided to abstain from alcohol and added sugars for the month (except for VegFest).

So, why am I doing this? To get a sexy beach bikini body, obvi.

Okay, so that’s not the primary reason. It is really more about proving to myself that I can do it and to reduce unhealthy practices in my life. Losing another 8-10 lbs would put me close to my preferred weight too…

The added sugar part won’t be a huge deal because I already avoid processed foods most of the time and rarely eat out. Alcohol is going to be a little bit more difficult because it is such an integral part of social life and in the past, I have turned to alcohol when stressed out.

I think this challenge will be a success, though. My partner is also doing a variation of this and with a set end-date, I think I can keep my motivation up. I have also started developing some better habits to turn to when I feel temptation such as drinking flavored water, going for walks, and reading.

Anyway, it should be a fun experiment. I love trying new things with my body to see how it reacts and to test my mental strength.

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

Am I Lucky?

The sun is finally out in Wilmington and the weather has started to warm. I am in desperate need of Vitamin D (GET THAT D!) so I decided to grab a beer and get some quality hammock time in my front yard. I couldn’t help think about how lucky I am as I stared up at the sky and gently rocked side to side. I live in a kick-ass city, have a job that I do online and I can thrive on without working full-time, my health is in solid shape, an amazing partner who is up for adventures, and friends across the globe that I can visit on on a whim.

Fuck yeah. I’m lucky.

Or am I?

The idea of luck bothers me because it isn’t luck. These things were not dropped into my lap at random. I wasn’t just in the “right place at the right time” to acquire a life I love. No, I am definitely not lucky. It is something else.

Maybe I’m blessed?

Nah, that doesn’t work either. There isn’t a magic force or entity out there rewarding be for obedience. I try to live a good life and treat others well, but I am certainly paying no allegiance to a deity (or even a philosophy).

So, while I lay in my hammock I have no idea how to express thanks. The truth is, I’m thankful for my own actions and my own decisions. There is certainly a level of privilege that came from being a white male that grew up in a family with both parents. But my family was also broke, I’ve had a job since about the age 12, and my upbringing involved a fair amount of emotional brainwashing. I was ill prepared for the real world when I joined the Army in 2001. I guess part of it is luck, but not the last 15 or so years.

But I can’t think of a word that describes “appreciation for my past actions that lead me here”. I chose not to marry the first two people I really loved because we were long-term incompatible. I chose to get a vasectomy to prevent an accidental pregnancy. I chose to quit my job (twice) and leave a stable city to travel to a new place because I wasn’t happy where I was, even though I did not have any job waiting for me in the new place. I chose to live in a city where the cost of living is a fraction of what it was in other places I’ve lived. I chose to live a fairly minimalist life. I chose not to own a car for nearly a decade.

These choices and countless others big and small led me to the point where I can sit in my hammock on a random Tuesday and drink a beer simply because I want to. Or I can spontaneously travel to another city to visit a friend on a whim. Or I can sign up to take classes in massage therapy because it interests me.

But I don’t know the word for that thankfulness and gratitude for my own choices. Whatever the word is, that is what I fell as I look up at the blue sky and lazily watch a red-tailed hawk drift around. That is what I feel when I experience the freedom that comes from making hard and risky choices because the unknown is better than unhappy mediocrity. That is the feeling that glows inside me every day as I look at my life and realize how fucking awesome it is.

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”

 

Week 8 (and March) Update

In keeping with my pursuit of deeper conversations and connections with friends (and future friends), here is an update on my week, the intimate and mundane. It all started with this blog post and now I have a half dozen or so people that I regularly exchange emails with. We talk about family, love, struggles, work, small talk, our passions, sex, death, money, and everything else under the sun. Several of my new pen-pals are people I’ve never actually met, but I feel a connection with them and look forward to someday meeting in person.

If you’d like to start a conversation with me using this post as a prompt, or really using anything you want as a prompt, please email me at pjneiger@gmail.com . Or, if you’d like to send me an anonymous message you can message me at pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH. I won’t really be checking Facebook or other social media networks consistently.

The month has been a little rough for me. I fell out of my solid February routine and spent most of the month treading water or taking two steps forward and one step back. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I felt like things were sliding a bit. Mostly, it comes down to both my natural cycle and March being a pretty hectic month. I’m excited for April though, for two reasons. First, my partner and I are committing to an “abstinence April” where we are giving up all food with added sugar, including beer. Second, I have basically nothing on my April schedule except for VegFest in two weeks (and that isn’t a stressor). Though, I think we are going to take a 10-hour break from our “no added sugar” rule for VegFest because we won’t really be in control of the food.

My business for March really came down to some very good reasons, primarily health and friendships. I had eight different medical appointments, including a dentist, therapist, physical therapist, and massage therapist. These appointments were valuable and necessary but they did seriously disrupt my routine. When two days per week have a mid-day appointment it becomes difficult to get into a fitness routine (particularly one that has scheduled classes involved) or even a life routine. But April won’t have those.

Additionally, I had a trip to Myrtle Beach to see the Avett Brothers and friends, two different sets of Couchsurfers/Warmshowers people stay with us, and that kick-ass rucking event that I did last week. All of these were awesome experiences, but it means that my weekends couldn’t really be described as “relaxing”.

So, without a solid weekday or weekend schedule, my ass had trouble finding solid ground to sit on. But, I’m proud of myself because despite the chaos I didn’t really backslide this month. I may not have made the progress I wanted, but I also didn’t regress.

Okay, enough about a quick month recap. Here are the intimate and mundane details from the last week:

  • I’ve really struggled with my social media blackout this week. I’m still trying to figure out why it has been so difficult but for some reason, I’ve been checking Facebook constantly. It is time to change the password again (once I memorize the password there is no additional barrier) and get back into weekly checking. Hopefully, I can get to the source of my urge to check Facebook and address the root problem.
  • I finished “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and cried. Then I watched the movie and I cried again.
  • I’m having trouble deciding what book to start next. I am reading three books right now but they aren’t exactly “sit down and get lost” books. One is about CBT therapy and is really more of a self-help book, one is a massage therapy textbook, and one is some personal essays from bisexuals around the world. I need some fiction or something intellectually stimulating but my bookshelf is giving me paralysis from all the choices. (I will be starting the next Harry Potter next month when my next Audible selection can be made for free)
  • Work has been a little slow on the deliverables this week and I’ve been focusing on mastering a new work-related skill set (Disaster Relief planning) and being available for spontaneous work
  • Had a great day with the trainer on Wednesday despite still being fucking sore from the ruck weekend.
  • Oh, and I had the 16-hour ruck weekend, I won’t regurgitate it here because I already blogged about it.
  • I got back into regular blogging and put up five blog posts, the goal is daily posts though:
  • During D&D we snuck around a fire giant’s lair, had a rogue join us, confused some goblins, stole a seashell, freed some slaves, and I almost caught a bed on fire
  • Got another filling, only one more dental appointment this year before I’m caught up. To be honest, I’m thrilled that all I needed was three fillings and a crown after going over ten years without seeing a dentist
  • I had a brainstorm/support session with one of my close friends last night on Zoom. These bi-monthly meetings with friends where we support each other and help find solutions to struggles is becoming incredibly helpful
  • I met with my therapist today and it went really well. I’m joining a mindfulness meditation therapy program next week that I’m excited about.

During the next week I really only have two things:

  • A massage on Tuesday
  • Two friends of ours that we met on our cross-country bike ride are coming to visit this weekend
  • Mindfulness therapy group starts next Friday

Alright, on to fitness progress. At first, I really didn’t think I made any progress this month. I was going to be very happy with just maintaining my February gains. But, after looking at the numbers and the photos I see that I’ve actually lost five pounds in March and I can see greater muscle definition in the photos, particularly in the arms. This is why tracking lead and lag indicators is important and beneficial to me, it helps me recognize my achievements when I feel down. Despite the last two weeks really not moving things in the direction I want, the overall trend is still positive. At this point, I am about 10 lbs away from my preferred weight.

Wanna stay in touch? Got a question for me? Want to tell me why I’m wrong and are curious how I got everything so backward? Have an idea for a blog post? Drunk and wanna send me a snapchat? Wanna become penpals and send each other letters in the mail about life in general?

Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below while I take a Facebook break!

Email address: pjneiger@gmail.com
Instagram: @peterneiger
Questions:  pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Snapchat: @pneiger
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”