Archive for category LIFE LESSONS

Life And Death Coincidences

Did I cause this?

I need to talk about some serious events that most people will call random coincidences. But I am feeling a bit like a poltergeist lately who may be causing these events. Do you think it is possible? I mention these incidents, because much of what I do and write about concerns taking control of my health, diet, exercise…largely with the purpose of living a long and active life to the fullest. Of course I love the sports—they are thrilling when I play them. But the exercise and diet are often done because they are “good for me.” Friends who see me avoiding delicious foods to minimize my cholesterol intake either admire my discipline or scorn it. Many think the deprivations aren’t worth the extra years of life I am aiming for. Nor do they believe all that effort justifies or guarantees my goal of not only living longer, but being fit, mobile, even athletic during my remaining years.

Sure much of my good health may simply be good genes. Lucky break for me. Very lucky. Totally out of one’s control. But whatever I was born with, I want to enhance its good potential by living healthfully and avoiding much in our environment that is terrible for humans. We can skip those obesity-causing, artery-blocking, trans-fat foods, along with cigarettes, and tanning salons. We can also move away or protect ourselves from harmful pollutants around us that are beyond our control: leave the city for the country; live far from a factory; use sun block; don’t breathe gasoline fumes when refueling, etc.

In these ways, I have a tangible influence on some physical events around me. But how much beyond that? Some of us let life events cause us stress that affects our health negatively. Some of us have optimistic visions or goals for the future that we turn into realities.

But what about seemingly random events? Psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote about coincidences as not entirely accidents. He suggested that when they happened, and one noticed them, it was possible to take some responsibility for them. He called this “synchronicity,” which has been described as the experience of two or more events, that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner.

I have paid attention to such synchronistic events for over 35 years. I am always wondering if I am merely linking unrelated accidents or not. Sometimes I pretend that I am totally the causal agent.

Here is what happened recently. Read the rest of this entry »

Capoeira Days

Watching the free running tapes two days ago reminded me of capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that I practiced for three years almost three decades ago sometimes three evenings a week. I was probably the oldest guy in the class—someone asked me if I was 24, when I was actually 42—and also one of the few white students. Some of the guys were street venders or construction workers. It was a strange contrast to leave a photo exhibition on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street with the Wall Street suits buying up art and walk three blocks to a run down dance studio that smelled of sweat and lacked ventilation.

If I didn’t know these gentle athletes who laughed and sang with me, I might have feared them in the street as strangers. It bothered me a lot to realize how easy it is to be prejudiced and so wrong about people you don’t know. I do recall one conversation in the dressing room, when a young man I really liked with a big smile was telling his friend that someone had started a fight with him, so he gave him a special capoeira kick that knocked him out and worried the kicker that he had killed him…

I loved the music everyone played and the songs we sang in Brazilian Portuguese as we formed a circle (roda) around the two “fighters” in the center. In the video above, you see the bow shaped birimbau and the tambourine (called a pandeiro), which I enjoyed slapping. I also played the triangle and the agogo, which sounds like a cow bell. Everyone clapped to cheer the capoeiristas on to more energy and more dangerous moves.

Capoeira originated with African slaves in Brazil in the 16th century who were not allowed to have weapons. So they developed this dance and music to fool their masters, while they practiced one of the deadliest fighting styles in the world. By inserting razors in their toes, they could easily kill their enemies. And even without any weapons, they could dominate most fights. The sport is still one of the most powerful of all martial arts.

The stylized sweeps and kicks in the videos are all meant to miss your opponent and simply practice the deadly moves. This “dance” has become an art form on its own these days, and just this week Jelom’s Viera’s dance company, DanceBrazil, is performing at the Joyce Theater in New York City.

DanceBrazil from Tiba on Vimeo.

I went on a trip with some classmates to Salvador and Rio in Brazil that was organized by Jelom when he was my mestre (master). It was a fabulous adventure to work out in the day in the dank heat…then at night watch my new friends in colorful costumes as they performed in swank clubs for tourists. The spontaneous shows I watched earlier in practice halls as three birimbaus were played from the heart or the top athletes tried to outdo one another with sparkling and unexpected moves made the choreographed club performances seem soulless in comparison. But the paying, drinking customers in the clubs never knew what they were missing. For that brief period, I was an insider and have reveled in that experience with fondness and gratitude.

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New Phase Of Tennis Playing

Hard to explain the thrill of discovering how much I have improved at tennis. And that I am really good at some parts of the game. I can’t just accept this newly realized skill, and a friend says I am obsessed with my unexpected awareness. But I have jumped into a new zone of play that continues to delight and amaze me. I am watching myself from the outside, hearing my buddies compliment me, and somehow I can’t integrate those words with the performance of the me inside my body. I didn’t know I had this talent.

Don’t misunderstand. I am not saying that I am anything like a really strong player. I am simply realizing that I am much better suddenly, and the more I accept it, the more confidence I have, and then I play better, and the spiral increases upward. So much of this sport is psychology. I now know I can do things I didn’t think I could before (to such a fine degree), and it makes me eager to excel at what I do well.

I am referring to my net game in doubles. That’s what annoys my opponents to distraction. Not that I am such a fantastic poacher, but that I return so many balls hit in my general vicinity, whether high or just above the net. I seem to have the reflexes. No matter how fast and powerful they arrive. Whether it comes at me on the alley side or in the middle, either side of the court. I am not afraid of being hit and hurt. I rarely turn my back in defense. I seem to have the reflexes to stay put, move my racket rapidly, and return a sweet spot shot back over the net and often for a winner.

Then I get to a lot of shots that seemed like winners for the other players…especially short balls that looked like they were out of reach. In spite of my age and large lower body, I somehow can run in time and keep the ball in play.

Thirdly is my serve. Just a week ago, my friend and coach Frank Adams, rearranged my swing and balance at the base line. I started serving by leaning on the back foot instead of the front foot and have a whole extra motion. It’s made enormous difference in the power of the ball I deliver on serve. My accuracy has always been good. So returning my serve is now harder…though there are plenty of people I play with who have faster serves that are more difficult to return. But I get a high percentage of my first serves in.

I am also serving from many different spots on the baseline—I used to start from just three positions. Now there are six—three on each side. What a huge difference in keeping the other side frustrated. I have to thank Joe Marshall’s instruction for moving me around on the baseline this way. Joe showed me how he has 27 different serves on each side: three spots, three tosses, three grips. That’s 54 different serves!!! I am nowhere near that capability.

The world is in such trouble, it may seem insensitive to be so excited about a tennis game. These days I am cramming in as much fun and play as possible. There are lots of responsibilities still screaming for attention and time. I spent two weeks working on taxes, have business and family and friend activities that must be done for survival and support. But focusing on that ball coming at 100 mph is a brief vacation from the difficulties and pain of a normal life. I am blessed to have discovered this distraction and joy, a challenge and arena for accomplishment, a passion and amazement and enormous satisfaction that results from merely hitting a ball with a racket that makes it over a net.

I hope you have—or find—something that thrills you like this. It is a blessing that I have encountered way too late in life. But at least I have it, and I am grateful…

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Benefits Of Birthdays, Fitness And Posting On this Site

This week celebrates two years of posting on this site. I didn’t know anything about the gym, machines, really good diets, how to make muscles, how many different sports activities there are, what it takes to lose weight, protein shakes, how passionate people are about their physical pursuits. Now I am much better informed. Hopefully some of you are too.

I took a picture of my abs yesterday. Still something showing, even with the extra weight I gained. I swear I am going to make bigger muscles. I promise…

The benefits of fitness and how to become toned really seem so obvious now, even if many of us can’t stick to the diets or gym visits. I read there is a gene, a congenital chemical reason why some like to exercise. I will post the story’s highlights another day. I may have one half of that gene, but after being deprived while traveling for 11 days, I am desperate to stretch and strain. I am not addicted to muscle-building…that is an effort. But it’s easy for me to hit tennis balls 10-plus hours a week. Maybe I have a tennis gene?

I also reached my 70th birthday on April 5th. Given my major goal of keeping fit and able to play sports, be very mobile, nimble and retain my memory…as long as I breathe, I am quite pleased. I know a good bit of this achievement is my genetic makeup. But I also watch my diet, avoid excessive alcohol, no drugs, and lead a pretty clean life. If it sounds boring, then listen on the phone with me as I talk to people in their 50’s who are having cat scans, MRI’s, tests in hospitals, are overweight and tired, hurt when they play sports. I want to avoid that scenario as long as possible.

Today at tennis, a fellow I have been playing with for over a year said he thought I was his age, just 56. I liked stunning him with the facts. After being a bit sad to leave my ’60s and listening to all the well-meant advice about how 70 is “only a number,” I overcame my upset with the sincere rationalization and belief that at least I have lived this long. It is really a blessing. Just listen to people in war and starvation zones all over the world. Just think of those who are sick and seeing doctors, although they are under 50 or 30 or even yesterday a friend under 20, and there is absolutely no justification for any complaint about getting older. OK a tiny regret that we can’t do what we used to do, but then we can at least do now whatever we can do now.

Yesterday a friend in her 40’s said that when she was 30 pounds lighter in high school, she could stand on her hands, even walk on her heavily-calloused hands “around the neighborhood.” She could stay upside down for 20 to 30 minutes at a time. No support. Feet not touching the ground. I am enormously impressed with this revelation. My record in my late 40’s was just 47 seconds. I never reached my goal of one minute. Of course I told my friend she could become fitter now, even though she is a working mom, with a zillion responsibilities more than in high school. She doesn’t have homework these days…

Groggy from a trip to England and Scotland, still jet lagging, another five pounds heavier from fatty foods that were unavoidable there—I have now gained 12 pounds in the last 90 days—I still started exercising again this week. Push ups, crunches, tennis (8 1/4 hours in 4 days and 2-3 scheduled for tomorrow) are all being done easily. Athough my tennis is very poor: I lost three sets of singles today, 2-6, 0-6, 0-6 to someone who usually wins, but after I take 3-4 games. I will get better again. That is the challenge. That is the fun for me. What is your passion?

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Some Readers Becoming Fitter, Finding The LIFE LESSONS Inspirational and Sending In Their Own Stories

There are people I know who are acting more healthfully since I began writing two years ago about fitness and talking about this site. Some have said how much they like the philosophical anecdotes about life that I call LIFE LESSONS. Many like looking at the pictures of celebrities who’ve lost weight or muscled their bodies. I have OTHER PEOPLE’S STORIES AND PHOTOS on the site now for additional inspiration. This is great. Why not email me—or upload—your story?

After two years of going to a gym, I began in April 2009 to work on my abs. Then an August 2009 shoulder injury from too many pull ups gave me the perfect excuse to give up the gym. My muscles shrank, but I started playing more tennis. I did crunches at home for 18 months, and in November 2010 achieved a personal best: 500+500+600=1600 crunches with a minute rest between each of the three sets.

Since fall I barely exercised at home, because I was too tired from 29 to 42 hours of tennis a month. Beginning in November 2010, I completely stopped doing crunches and started doing push ups in addition to tennis 3-4 days a week. I admit I was lazy. And I gained weight from all those holiday meals. You can see my smaller abs in the photo on the left. At least I look better than two years ago. As a sometimes inspiration, I check out the guy with the talking abs in this video. You won’t believe what he can do…

70th birthday after gaining 12 pounds, not exercising for 11 days and almost no crunches for 5 months—4/6/11

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Digging Deeper When You Are In A Hole

Andres Vargas (rt) and Chris Binnie (who won the 9th match in the final)

On February 25th at the college squash national quarter finals, Trinity’s #3, Andres Vargas, defeated Franklin and Marshall’s Mauricio Sedano, 12-10, 12-10, 11-8. The closeness of the final numbers doesn’t reveal a startling comeback I witnessed in what I may recall correctly was the second game. Vargas was down by a score of 3-9. It only takes 11 points to win, although you have to win by at least two points.

There were less than 10 of us watching this game on the side courts with no bleachers. The eight or so folding chairs were mostly empty of fans. But standing beside me was a Trinity team member who does not rank in the top 9, so he was not playing that day. He casually said to me—in response to my expression of concern that Vargas was in deep trouble—”Don’t worry, Vargas will win this game.”

I was shocked. What made him think that? How could he be so sure? He was absolutely certain. When the score increased to 5-10, so that F&M’s player just needed one more point, my Trinity neighbor repeated his prediction. “Vargas has heart. He is the ultimate fighter. He will win this game.”

And then something emotional and inexplicable happens…Vargas wins two more points. It’s a 7-10 game. The distance to the finish has been cut to one point for F&M, but “ONLY” five points for Vargas. Still seems impossible to me. Yet having just won four out of the last five points, the momentum has clearly shifted to Vargas’s side. Trinity fans are hopeful. Maybe it isn’t impossible. F&M needs just one little point in the next five or so efforts. But it doesn’t seem like such a sure thing any more.

Remember that the first game was very close. It had been tied at 10-10, before Vargas squeaked ahead to a victory. This was not a pushover competitor. In this game, F&M had been ahead by 6 and then 5 points…Nevertheless, Vargas claims the next five points, forcing his way to another 12-10 win.

I turned to his Trinity teammate beside me. “How come you are not surprised?” I asked. Vargas had just won 9 out of 10 points. “He just digs in and wins. He is a fighter,” was the explanation. Not very clear nor satisfying to me. But he did it. I had witnessed it.

When Andy Roddick was playing Roger Federer at Wimbledon in 2009, there was a moment when Roddick was up a set and winning in the second set tiebreak 5-2. I was sure—well 99% sure—that Roddick would win two points, before Federer would win five. But Roddick blew it…and maybe never recovered. He lost the match in the fifth set by a score of 14-16.

Federer just dug deep. And he does it over and over. In a recent interview, Roddick said that Roger plays consistently at the highest level, whereas the other top 10 pros like himself lose focus, have more off days, are unable to maintain winning game play.

I tried to dig deep at tennis today, like Vargas and Federer. We were behind 0-3, and I was serving. I tried to be a killer, instead of a gentleman who doesn’t mind losing. It is my biggest challenge. But I believe I can do it…and we came back to win that game 6-4. Who’d a thunk it?

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Hurricane Hazel Has Played Hockey Since The 1920′s!

Wonder how those pro athletes past their prime make it through life? Here is a charming and adorable story that should serve as an inspiration for us all. This woman is incredible. Watch her handle the puck and knock down duck pins. She still rides a bike and is more active than most people half her age.

Hazel still handles a puck

Hazel McCallion, age 89, is the mayor of Mississauga, Ontario, the sixth-largest city in Canada (population of 734,000) and the fourth most populous city on the Great Lakes, surpassing both Milwaukee and Cleveland. McCallion has been Mississauga’s mayor for 32 years, holding office since 1978. She is affectionately called “Hurricane Hazel” by supporters as well as the media at large for her vibrant outspoken style of no-nonsense politics. She was easily reelected in October 2010 for her 12th consecutive term of running a DEBT-FREE city!

Hazel began playing hockey in the late 1920s and later, with her two older sisters playing defense, took her spot as a lightning quick center on a team in a ladies’ league. After moving to Montreal, she turned “professional,” earning $5 a game to play for Kik Cola, one of three teams in a ladies’ league there. Since first being elected as mayor of Mississauga, Hazel has been able to spread her influence into other hockey-related areas, including sitting on the board of the Ontario Women’s Hockey League, obtaining icetime for girls’ hockey and helping Mississauga build the Hershey Centre. In 1998, Hazel McCallion assisted a group headed by hockey personality Don Cherry secure a franchise for the Mississauga IceDogs in the Ontario Hockey League.

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Does Circumcision Make You More Attractive?

Ira and grandson Ryder at one day old—1/2/11

Jerry goes to a bris as the godfather

I have a new grandson, who was born on 1/1/11. A real gift and source of happiness for me and our family. There was a bris a week later, which is a party to celebrate the birth and also to have a circumcision, which is performed by a professional called a mohel.

A friend sent me a link to a Seinfeld video about a bris. It is very funny and is in Yiddish with English subtitles.

The bris is a 4000+ year Jewish tradition to welcome a boy-child into the community. It is also a requirement for Muslim males I learned. It may have also begun for health reasons. These days not everyone agrees that it is necessary or desirable. Some people think it is barbaric.

I asked a surgeon friend if circumcision has health benefits. He and another doctor friend said it didn’t, although one wrote that “there is some benefit in reducing the spread of HIV in Africa.” But the surgeon (who is not Jewish) said he thought it was good from an aesthetic point of view. This startled me. Seems totally subjective and arbitrary.

But since this site is concerned with abs and other muscles that many think improve our appearance when they are defined or bigger, and since I have also talked about plastic surgery, breast enhancement, and hair coloring to make us look younger and more attractive, why not circumcision? Especially when at least one person thinks it makes men more attractive. To whom I wonder? The occasional date or wife? Oh well…

As the grandfather, I had the honor of sitting right next to the baby who was held by the other grandpa, who happens to be a doctor. He was very approving of the mohel’s technique. I was very nervous that something would go wrong. But it didn’t. Other people at the bris admitted that they couldn’t look and were queasy. The mohel pointed out how many people usually hug the most distant wall.

Did you ever read that for men, blood represents a problem, an injury or accident. But for women, who are used to menstruating, the flow of blood is a sign of good health and fertility. Who would have guessed…

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Are You Living In Fear For Your Life?

I wrote earlier about a friend who went to the doctor and died of a stroke in his office. Some other friends thought she might have been afraid of what the doctor would tell her.

So when I went to the podiatrist to have a foot ache examined, and he said I needed a shot of cortisone, which I’d never had before, I wondered if I was going to have an allergic reaction and possibly die in his office. But I didn’t.

Then I had a bad toothache that wouldn’t go away after a second dentist visit. I waited until the Christmas-New Year’s holidays had passed, and by then my whole upper right jaw was hurting. I read about it on the internet and learned that I might have cancer. A week later, after some more anxious moments, the dentist pulled my wisdom tooth—it had a cavity the size of a BB—and the pain (and my imagined cancer) went away. But I was nervous a bit with the possibility of major illness.

Today there was a snowstorm that dumped two feet of snow. I began shoveling, but after an hour, a friend urged me to take a break, so that I didn’t drop dead from a heart attack…even though I play hours of tennis and am in terrific shape from all the cardio. I complied, ate, rested, and then finished the job. I really thought there was zero chance of my dying from that exertion. But I wasn’t macho or defiant. I took the break…just in case.

So as healthy as I am, there is all this fear just below the surface. Three decades ago, I wrote a poem that had the following line: “Life is a minefield. Limbs fly all around me. I survive. I move on.”

35 years ago in Japan, I had a guide who rode the bus holding on to the pole and with his feet braced for a possible crash…”just in case there is an accident.” He was only a school kid, but he rode every bus with the fear of injury or death in his mind.

What does this negative and scared mentality do to one’s experience of living? It has to dampen it. It has to hold you back sometimes from feeling happy, carefree and lighthearted. Right?

Throughout this journey, I want to minimize the problems of a physical body that does not work right or is creaky, achy and non-responsive. I like the ease and innocence of feeling and acting youthful. That is what drives me somewhat to play sports, exercise, avoid harmful substances and bad foods. It also feels good. When I am able to glide through the snow on my cross country skis and jump for an overhead volley at the tennis net, all that denial and conditioning seems worth it. Do you agree?

Yet even I fear that at any time, I will hear the news that I don’t want to hear. I have no illusions. Life is fickle. It is not certain. Nothing should be taken for granted. Everything good should be appreciated. The moments of happiness should be savored and relished. There will be plenty of sad times in between.

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How To Destroy Your Game In One Easy Lesson

So I played tennis one day last week…a vacation week for both my kids who kept me up until 2,4, even 6 am one morning: we watch TV, do jig saw puzzles, eat pop corn, laugh a lot. Great time for bonding, but I become tired. However all the parenting books insist that you have to spend quality time with older kids when THEY want to do it, not when it’s convenient for the parents.

But it’s not then possible to sleep uninterruptedly for the next 12 hours, like the kids can. Noooooo. The dogs bark at 8 wanting to be let out and fed, the UPS trucks ring the door for signatures. So I was really, really tired.

Then my son wanted to play squash…in the evening after he visited his friends. By the time we finished at 9 pm and started dinner at 11, I was almost punchy. Asleep at 1 or 1:30, I was in poor condition for a morning tennis singles game that I’d accepted with a player who’d never called before. And then three other guys after that who desperately needed a New year’s Eve day fourth.

I was exhausted, doped, numb and dazed. No focus, no skill, no anything. I lost all four sets of singles: 2-6, 0-6, 0-6, 0-6. I played the worst tennis in two years. So much for being at the top of my game. So much for applying all the new spins, serves and lobs I’d been taught. I hope that fellow calls me back another time. I sure didn’t make a very good impression. Although he did see how admiring I was of his terrific shots and admitted that he had a new racket that was working beautifully. And as long as he was playing so well and saw that I was not getting angry being slaughtered, he would keep on doing the best he could. Which he did. I felt like a sparring partner who was there for the champ to pummel. To allow his fists to get toughened up on real human flesh, rather than a punching bag. So much for my good attitude.

Should I have turned him down, when he asked me to hit? I couldn’t. Too tempting. But I ended up being a zombie who could neither function nor think. No regrets. Just an increased awareness that you need your sleep and rest to be good at the test…

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A Simple Question Leads To Startling Info And Much Better Playing

“How do you serve?” my son asked after a ping pong game. I have been playing on and off for maybe 60 years, and he is still an improving novice with one simple serve. I was able to show him five or six ways to put different spins on the ball at the beginning of my serve.

THEN THE LIGHT BULB FINALLY WENT OFF: My buddy Joe told me he plays “junk ball” tennis based on his earlier ping pong skills. He puts all kinds of spin on his shots, rather than hit the ball powerfully each time. He also lobs a lot to drive his opponents crazy. Some guys at our club refuse to play with Joe, because his unorthodox rhythm and unpredictable, unconventional spins drive them crazy.

So when I asked Joe to show me some different serves, HE SHOWED ME 27. TWENTY SEVEN!!!!!!!! I have only been using one flat serve and occasionally attempting a feeble alternate serve with some spin. But now I have all these choices to work on. And Joe also hit serves to me for half an hour, so I could learn how to lob them back over the net man. I was raring to go and try out all my new tricks.

Now can you imagine how thrilled I was today to play the best tennis of my life against my toughest opponents…doing lobs and more than one serve. My team won 6-4 and 6-1, and my net game was terrific. That makes six sets we have won out of 16 played in this weekly game in which I am the weakest combatant. Can’t wait for the next challenge.

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Dieting Advice From A High School Friend Who Just Died

Kay Robbins in high school around 1958

I learned yesterday that a girl I went with to our senior prom had died the day before “of a stroke during a routine doctor’s visit.” I hadn’t seen or talked to Kay since our last high school reunion three years ago. Her lifelong commitment to the gym had kept her in seemingly buoyant shape. She was energetic and clever as always. She was easily recognizable as the girl I knew from the 50’s, unlike some other friends from my teens. I have no idea if she had any illnesses or health issues. She was not thin, but most grandmas of 69 have put on a few pounds over the years.

I write these words while she is being buried in Miami. I am definitely stunned by the suddenness of her departure, as are many classmates who have commented on our school web site. I am hearing stories of people who were major athletes and died suddenly at much younger years. One tale today was about a 40-year-old man playing paddle tennis who was told a joke between games and literally died while he was laughing. That same storyteller told me how he’d seen an 86-year-old die after a game on the very same tennis court we were playing on. Some friends think it’s better to go suddenly, unexpectedly, rather than suffer painfully over years.

You know I am all for fitness and good health. I want to live longer and healthier. But most importantly, in a youthful way, not an old man’s exit hugging the couch and my drink, while watching TV. I watch what I eat instead and strive to keep my muscles toned, even defined, and my heart pumping rapidly through sport. It turns out I am lucky that I did not wear out my body all those years that I was working in an office, unlike my friend I lunched with on Tuesday who has been running and playing racket sports all his life, but is now suffering with hurt knees that need surgeries and couldn’t take the stop-and-start strains of tennis or squash.

Kay Rosenfeld giving advice as Bubbe around 2005

For years Kay wrote an advice column for the Miami Herald that was called “Bubbe Says.” Bubbe means grandmother in Yiddish, and Kay’s witty wisdom was proffered cleverly and directly. Here is one of her old responses involving the importance—or not—of weight loss. Enjoy her advice and also her skill with words:


Dear Bubbe,

My problem is my weight. For the past 10 years, I have been trying to lose the same 10 pounds. I have gone on every diet on the planet, spent thousands of hours in the gym, but I can never get it off and keep it off.

I am turning 50 this month and I wanted to hit the magic number with a smaller one on the scale. Any advice?

— Heavy Hearted, Kendall

Dear Heavy,

Yeah, my advice is to lighten up.

With frenetic lifestyles and no time or energy to cook at home, we are big on fast food and supersized portions, which equals supersized people. Thousands of books tell us how to get it off, TV offers up The Biggest Loser, Oprah’s in great shape (this year), and Kirstie Alley keeps asking if we’ve called Jennie yet. (No. Now go away.)

We’ve gone as far as surgically removing parts of our stomachs. We lipo away the pounds. There is now talk of making Xenical, a prescription fat blocker, an over-the-counter drug.

We may be obsessed, but we are still obese.

Consider this: If you lost that final 10 pounds, how would your life change? It wouldn’t change a whit. In fact, you might not even go down a size. All that agonizing—and for what?

Listen, 10 pounds or no 10 pounds, most people will never look like a Vogue supermodel, particularly at 50 and probably not at 25. Vogue supermodels don’t even look like that in real life without airbrushing.

So don’t take all the enjoyment out of one of life’s greatest, most sensual pleasures. People can quit smoking and give up the booze, but they really can’t stop eating. (Anorexics, take heed.)

If you can possibly give yourself permission to eat a healthy diet—most things in moderation and some artery clogging, apply-directly-to-hips good garbage on occasion—by not obsessing, you might gain a little perspective and lose a few pounds. Or not.

You can read more about Kay and some of her published columns here .

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Helene Neville’s Amazing 2500-Mile Run Across America

From 1921 to 2008, there have been 4,102 ascents to the summit of Mt. Everest by about 2,700 individuals. Since 1928, only 212 people have crossed the country on foot! (running or walking) Only one person has ever run the transcontinental southern route, during the hot, humid conditions of summer.

Helene Neville, her journey entitled “One on the Run,” set foot on a 2,520-mile run on May 1st, 2010 and completed her run on August 1, 2010—93 days! Helene is now the first person to run the southern route in the summer and the first woman ever to complete this course.

Helene Neville—incredible athlete and inspiration

Helene plans to run from Canada to Mexico in March 2011, north to south, all within the same calendar year.

If you go to her web site , you will find this amazing excerpt from her bio there: Helene has been a nurse and a fitness coach for the past 28 years. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease in 1993, conquering the disease in 2001 after overcoming three brain surgeries, which she suffered between 1991 and 1997.

In July 1998, Helene’s doctors told her she would never recover. It was Helene’s persistent attitude that drove her to set goals in her life. She decided then to accomplish one more goal in her life, and she began training to run a 26.2-mile marathon.

Helene entered and completed her first marathon and has completed 25 more since. Among them was the London Marathon, where her finish qualified her to compete in the world famous Boston Marathon. Qualifying for Boston was a proud step for Helene in overcoming her extreme health obstacles.

Helene finishes her 2010 Run Across America—8/1/10

Helene’s most notable marathon challenge was the Fox Cities Marathon held in Fox Cities, Wisconsin. Helene’s close friend, Don Owens, who lost his sight twenty years earlier, asked Helene if she would help him train to run a marathon. After sixteen weeks of training, Helene and Don completed the marathon together, tethered to each other with a bungee cord.

Helene wrote me that “I was always an athlete. In high school and college I ran sprints and middle distances. In 1998 I took up marathons after the doctors gave up on me. I also competed in two bodybuilding competitions and climbed Mt. Whitney.

“I decided to run across the country to mark my 50th birthday, to promote the book Nurses In Shape that I authored and to get nurses healthy, so they can be more credible as they instruct patients to incorporate fitness and proper nutrition in their lives.

It was a run in part to deliver the message on foot to make a bigger impact. I stopped and spoke with hundreds of nurses at 30 hospitals along the way. My mission is: To change the health of our nation, we must first change those who care for the ill. Health care practitioners should be leading by example. I intend to change the face of nursing, so my profession can be that much more credible while we educate our patients on diet and exercise. Nurses are millions in numbers, so we can have a huge voice in changing the health and wellness of our society. If we don’t, in the end, we are literally bearing the extra load!

I will continue to run in every state to get this message to nurses, so they can become better ambassadors and teachers of health. Additionally, if we can get the school nurses to set examples, we might begin to see a decline in the epic climb of childhood obesity.

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Martina Navratilova’s Thoughts About Failure Applied To Dumbness On The Squash Court

It’s amazing how absent-minded I am on the squash court. At the last two Sunday one-hour clinics, the instructor teaches us shots and strategies, we practice them for 15 minutes, and then we play games against each other with the intent of using them in a contest. What’s unbelievable is that I forget to do them, whether it’s a high lob to the back court—I finally remembered after 3 1/2 games last week— or a rail or drop shot on the side of the court opposite my opponent, when I am returning serve.

I just can’t remember. Today I was in the third losing game before I realized the other guy was a lefty, and that I had been serving to his forehand each time. And hitting to that side of the court as well. What the hell is this dumbness all about? It’s nuts to be so completely thoughtless and unaware. As I was leaving the courts after two hours, I saw someone flick his wrist a certain way and then, finally, realized I was hitting my backhand wrong.

How can I be so out to lunch? Is it nervousness that is to be expected, when attempting a new sport or task? While feeling sorry for myself and whining to a friend, he told me to have patience, that it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at something, that I have only been playing squash for under two years. Nevertheless, I am still pissed and disgusted. It’s pathetic to lose awareness to such a degree.

Maybe this is what many folks experience in daily life, when doing their job, dating, or handling the logistics of everyday chores: they forget what wise or experienced people have told them. They aren’t sure what to say, which decision to pick, what shirt would look best, etc. I don’t have problems with a lot of those challenges.

But I am a complete ignoramus on the squash court. In tennis I can now often see an opening and control my body in time to hit the ball there. I just have to stay with it in squash.

I am reminded of an article I read today about tennis champion Martina Navratilova, who attempted to climb Mount Kilmanjaro and failed to reach the top. She couldn’t breathe and was carried down on a stretcher.

Nothing about the experience, she insisted, had altered her definition of success, which despite her countless trophies and record 59 Grand Slam titles has never revolved solely around winning. “I’ve always said, ‘The only failure is when you fail to try,’ ” Navratilova said. “The other failure would be not giving your best effort. And I feel I did both: I tried and gave my very best effort. It just wasn’t meant to be.”

I am not sure I agree with her last sentence, suggesting the result was more fate than personal failure, but I like the part about how you have to make the attempt and give it your best effort. If only I could remember a few of these pointers for improving my squash game, then I would feel that I gave it my best effort…even if I lost, as I did all 10 games among three players today. Patience…and practice. Have to build that muscle memory. 10,000 hours, here I come…

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Sarah Silverman Parts Publicly With Advice About Non-Public Parts

Here is a health tip for women from Sarah Silverman that she shared on national TV. I post this as a public service…Though the screen behind her is blue (color), and her words are blue (bawdy), I feel blue (sad) that so many people I know would think it is in such bad taste and SOOOOOOO inappropriate that they are unable to laugh and enjoy it.

Is it the same for the people in your life? Maybe I shouldn’t reveal that I sometimes have a coarse side? Life often includes setbacks, pain and suffering, kicks in the teeth, disasters and deaths. Why can’t we all just relax a bit more and not take ourselves so seriously. Keep giving us advice Sarah…laughter is great for our health.

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Stefan Pinto: From Fat To Fit And From Geek To Chic

Stefan Pinto transformed—6/2009

I read about Stefan in the New York Times , went to his web site, and emailed him to learn an amazing story of his life and body transformation. Here is how he changed his life.

“Five years ago, the only vegetable I ate was the sauce from tomatoes. It was every Friday night that I dined on Pizza Hut’s Stuffed Crust Meat Lovers followed by a heaping three-scoop Baskin Robbins banana split chocolate Macadamian Marshmallow sundae. And five years ago I was 60 pounds overweight, taking prescription medication for allergies, migraine headaches and foot pain. And five years ago, I almost had a heart attack. I was only 33, and the short-lived, immediate joy of eating a poor diet nearly killed me.”

Then two things happened—he joined a gym and changed his diet.

“When I first started going to a gym, I hated it. I could not even ride the stationary training bike for five minutes without feeling as though I would suffer a premature stroke. Turns out, I had exercise induced asthma, a condition diagnosed by a certified trainer and common among the sedentary.

My warm ups on the treadmill ended up being my workout the majority of the time. So, I would “walk” on the treadmill for an hour. Even if I didn’t work out with weights, I would do my hour of walking on the treadmill. Even if I felt “too tired” to go to the gym, I went. But I didn’t really see the point. I suppose I was trapped in the “I want it now” scenario. It just seemed “too difficult.” I was being typical. Naturally, with such a fine excuse, I inevitably gave up after one month and skipped the gym for the next three.

a heavier Stefan—2005

What made me go back was the realization that I hadn’t really given it my best shot. I didn’t try to do anything different. I did what was convenient. And as soon as discomfort of changing a routine set in, I panicked.

the original Stefan—2005

Thankfully (and luckily), I realized that I DID want to lose the weight. I knew that I would not be able to answer to my older self as to what happened to my body. I made a commitment that I will lose 20 pounds by my 34th birthday (I gave myself one year).Where did the motivation come from to do this? Especially during the dead of winter (I lived in New Jersey). Looking back, I have discovered this when it comes to being—and staying—motivated:

It is all about attitude. Those with positive attitudes are more highly motivated than those who aren’t. If we see exercise as a “chore,” then it becomes this. If we see it as a “gift” — an ability to actually change our bodies—then, well, I am sure you understand.

After three months a trainer approached me and suggested I change things up. I ended up hiring that trainer…

By the time I moved to South Beach (two years later), I had already been re-trained and disciplined into a healthier lifestyle, so going to the gym was no longer a chore but a necessity. I worked out seven days a week.

a happier Stefan—2009

It was in 2005 that a model scout discovered me in a supermarket. All of these steps led up to a transformation on the outside, but my attitude towards life and expectations didn’t really change until 2008, when Miami experienced a financial collapse, and my life was set in turmoil.

It made me realize what was important and who I really was. I lost my home, my pet and all of my belongings (I didn’t even have money to buy coffee). Yet, I wasn’t afraid. People who knew my situation grew distant out of their own fear, but I just knew—it’s not that simple to explain—but I just “knew” I would be okay. I felt it here (points to heart). Perhaps all of the cardio offered me some mental clarity? But I am happy I didn’t give up.

I realized that I could just take a job. I actually interviewed at an insurance company and on the drive back home, my rationale kicked in and inquired on what I was doing. I knew I would hate working at that place. The universe stepped in and I never got that job. I decided I would do what I’ve always wanted, and go live in California. Moving to Los Angeles was one of the best things I could’ve done. I am happy with the man I’ve become.”

Today Stefan Pinto writes a health and fitness column for the National Fitness Examiner, has a radio show, is a model, and has a physique that earned him a Playgirl centerfold. Check out his web site to learn more about him and his diet.

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How And Why Doug Pruden Sets World Records For Push Ups

On September 14th this year, I wrote about Superhumans who do thousands of push ups. One of those world record holders, Doug Pruden, has written to me with his life story and then answered some questions I asked him. Like how do you do so many and what motivates you? Doug has done 10,000 regular push ups in 8 hours. What an inspiration…

Push ups are the big revolution of my life. In grade school I failed physical education, if 50% is a grade for health. Not great at team sports. Preferred the individual sports and wanted to still excel at something so I choose what cost little and did not require a gym or expensive membership. Just get down and drop and do over 1000 at home to my own music and setting and then shower up and relax in front of the T.V. for a bit and eat!

I was able to set over a dozen world records and be entered 4 times into the Guinness world records. Latest is the 2010 book! In there for 1025 one arm push ups on the back of my hand in one hour done November 8th 2008 at the Don Wheaton Family YMCA. Have set other records like 1000 fist push ups in 18 minutes and 13 seconds! And get this: 1382 one armers in 30 minutes back in 2003. From Edmonton Alberta Canada. Through athletic presentations in schools, the push ups are very motivational to students and adults alike.

Doug sets Guiness records for back-of-hands push ups—2005

I do push ups because fitness is a mandatory part of my life above just earning a living etc, that most people just concern themselves with. I do it for the glory of God and Jesus of course, and for myself and my health. Its a great free exercise, meaning no weights and commuting to a gym in smoggy traffic full of irritated drivers. I’d rather be at home and work out and feel great afterwards about the day. I can do the exercise at world record speed by myself and then tell people I do that and they can pay me to prove it to them!

The key is determination and just working out every day. World records are painful, but fun when you break a record in the end! There are rules and requirements for world records. I have to follow them to a tee. Tough and rugged is what you must be. It certainly does take great stamina so you must be really tough minded and be prayed up in the spirit. Like you need divine intervention to do this and to be your best. ONE CAN USE ALL THE HELP YOU CAN GET. I can do 100 one-arm push ups in a row quite regularly.

Here you got the basics. I actual hated physical education because it was physical education in school. You HAVE TO educate your body to do it till its routine. Routine and your body expects it. Everyone has routines and habits. I am used to it and everyone expects me to succeed now. That alone is such great positive peer pressure. Or public pressure to be number one again and again. It was not here before but now it is since the public is used to me doing push ups well. I originally just expected myself to do it. First at 1 minute then 5 minutes then 10 minutes then 20, 30, 40, 50 minute time intervals, etc. You have to try someplace. Little steps. Now its still little steps but a whole bunch in an hour! Little steps, little time intervals one after another.

Every person young and old, who wants to be fit, must in addition to rest and hydration, eat healthy, meaning a balanced diet, with an emphasis on proper nutrition. My own careful diet selections include: fruits, veggies and protein diet. Harmful lifestyles such as: smoking, drinking in excess, or banned substances should have no part in your fitness regime and decisions. You don’t need to be a superstar to be healthy and fit, just a determination and will to do it right. Fitness and health is the worlds best wealth to acquire and achieve. If You need incentive, healthy living must be the first one, which helps create a healthy mind and soul. Most of the greatest athletes, actors and leaders in music are also fit. Some very fit. They need it for their busy, hectic, and scheduled celebrity lives. Fitness has caused me to live a more interesting life filled with unique friends, and a desire to work more efficiently at whatever I find myself doing. It is so much of apart of my life, I am fortunate to be blessed with this strength from God.

One should find a motivation for staying fit. For me it is being more public with it, by doing world records and presentations to children (in a school) or adults. What productivity is there if you just do fitness and not gain from it other than a fit body? That is why I did world records. Fitness for me is a mandatory daily activity, because of the connection I made with everything else I do, and everyone I met. It can just flow in my lifestyle. It’s a passion for health and a wonderful tool for reaching young athletes. I talk about it, and they talk to me about it because of world records. There certainly comes with it respect, honor, letters, media interviews, demos, etc with this. It’s fun to do what you want and what you like and get something motivational from people in return for it. You can meet people from every walk of life, everywhere because of it. The sky is the limit with what I can do with being a multi-record holder.

According to Wikipedia, Doug set the following national/world records

* 5557 Fist push ups in 3:02:30 hours on July 9, 2004
* 1000 fist push ups in 18:13 minutes on July 9, 2003
* 114 one arm push ups in one minute in March 2003
* 546 one arm push ups in 10 minutes on July 30, 2003
* 1382 one arm push ups in 30 minutes on July 30, 2003
* 1,777 one arm push ups in 1 hour on November 2004 (2521 world record Paddy Doyle)
* 575 Back of Hand push ups in 15 minutes on April 29, 2005
* 1045 Back of Hand push ups in 30 minutes on April 29, 2005
* 1781 Back of Hand push ups in 1 hour on July 8, 2005 (world record of 1940 held by John Candy)
* 677 push ups on one arm on the Back of hand on November 9, 2005
* 1025 push ups on one arm on the Back of hand on November 8, 2008 (2010 Guinness)
* 59 push ups on one arm on the Back of Hand on March 24, 2007

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Don’t Think Like Tony Curtis That You Are “Entitled And Deserve” To Win And Succeed

Tony Curtis toward the end—2008

When Tony Curtis died last week at 85, I wondered whose picture was being shown. I just didn’t recognize him. He’d put on many pounds, his face had aged alot and he’d lost his hair. Of course I was frightened for a moment that growing older could look like that for me…although I am fighting it with a better diet, more exercise and no drugs. But what really made me want to include his pictures on this site was his attitude in later years. It reminds me of my own negativity, when I am playing “loser” tennis, and also of others who feel they “deserve” a better life, more skills, or greater talent.

Tony Curtis

We all just have what we have, and can’t do much to change our capabilities or physical aptitudes. We CAN learn new things and improve the gifts we have. Most importantly, we can modify our view of the world and how we react to the bad breaks that fall on us all. But we’re not “entitled” to anything.

Here are excerpts from an article about Tony’s crappy views at the end:

…Curtis spent his dotage, looking back with equal measures of wistfulness, pride and regret on the course his life had taken. A New York street tough originally known as Bernard Schwartz, he rose from domestic abuse and poverty to become a Hollywood pretty boy before becoming a burnout, a drug addict and an outcast seeking some form of redemption and reconciliation.

young Tony

“I don’t feel like I got the movies I should’ve gotten,” Tony said in a 2008 interview.

“I don’t know why I’m so dissatisfied,” confided the star of “Some Like It Hot,” “Spartacus,” “The Defiant Ones” and another 120 films and an artist with work in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. “What am I looking for? What am I chasing?”

a pretty boy in his heyday—1960

It’s hard to know. Curtis enjoyed one of those American lives that most would envy. He was a matinee idol who appeared in films with his own idols, from Burt Lancaster to Cary Grant; who enjoyed wild dalliances with the world’s most lusted-after women; who had genuine friendships with a list of Hollywood and Washington royalty…

Tony at home in Nevada

And yet none of that seemed to provide him much comfort. He felt so frustrated by Hollywood that he retired to Las Vegas, where he and sixth wife Jill lived and where she founded a wild horse rescue. He was openly saddened that he did not transition to playing older, wiser parts, the way Paul Newman and Marlon Brando did. He earned just one Oscar nomination in his career, for “The Defiant Ones,” and complained that he had to share that honor with co-star Sidney Poitier, who was also nominated.

“I don’t feel like I got the movies I should’ve gotten,” Curtis said in 2008. “I felt I deserved more than the industry had given me. I felt I should have been considered more, with a little more respect from the Screen Actors Guild and the Academy.”

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Winning After You Were Losing

For the second time in two weeks—and the second time in a year, or ever—I defeated my friend Bill, a four-day-a-week, multi-decade tennis player.

Most satisfying was not just that I won 10-8 after an hour and a half for one set, and right after playing two hours of doubles. Nor that I won though he served first, and I was under pressure each time I served… because I was only ahead once at 9-8. Nor even that I won after losing breaking opportunities the first two times he served, when I had him love-30 and lost, and then love-40 and lost. No, the major achievement was that I was dejected with my early missed chances, then broken to 2-5, sure I was headed for our familiar year-long pattern, where I lose 2-6, or maybe 3-6…and then I came back from the pit, held on, and actually won the set!

It takes a lot to stay focused and not accept predictable defeat. I would talk to myself softly, saying “you can do it…don’t give up…dig deeper…watch the ball.” Last week, I played a tough opponent, and it was close. I was serving at 5-5, after coming back from 3-4 or 3-5. Suddenly I missed one shot in a long rally, and I was down love-30…and I knew I had lost the set. I just felt it. I dug deep that day, but into a hole I thought was 100 feet deep, and I was at the bottom of it and couldn’t see any way to climb out. So my vision came true, and I lost 5-7.

What the hell was that about? How could I be so negative, so sure of losing, so wimpy about fighting. There were no inner resources to call upon. I hated it. I became a “loser.” That’s not who I want to be. If I can’t be a “killer” on the court, at least I can be an “optimist” or a “hopeful.” But not that day. It was impossible.

In 1962 when I was hitchhiking around the country for five months, I visited my oldest cousin. Her roommate’s boy friend, I was told, was a hit man for the Chicago mafia. A nice enough guy who bought us take-out pizza. Sitting around the kitchen table, being shown the mink underwear top and bottom that this killer had bought for his girl friend, he told me that when he was born, he was so angry that he came out with both fists already clenched. He was a fighter from birth.

I’ll bet he would have been a deadly opponent on a tennis court!

This fellow Jure Robic, the endurance cyclist I just wrote about, became a totally different persona when competing. His friend said “he was very polite and nice when he was not on the bike, but absolutely the most unpleasant person you could imagine in a race…We discovered (he was) someone we were absolutely afraid of.”

I sure would like to be tougher, more aggressive and ornery when I am playing tennis. If I can’t BE a killer, if I can’t walk out on the court eager to obliterate the enemy, with my fists clenched and my mouth snarling, can’t I at least PRETEND that I want to decimate and destroy my opponents? IMAGINE that I am a rough, tough, macho meany. Maybe I have to scrunch up my face in the mirror, spit into the sink, and smash a grapefruit with my bare hands. That might fire up my juices. What do you think? What do you do when you are competing and really want to win?

And of course all these thoughts and actions can apply to other parts of your life beyond sports…but you already realized that, didn’t you?

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Will I Live to See 80?

A friend and college roommate sent me this, saying it made him think of me. There are other friends who often make fun of me, saying that by my not drinking much and denying myself tasty, buttery, fattening foods, I may outlive them, but my life will not have been as enjoyable and worth living. What do you think?

>Here’s something to think about.
>I recently picked a new primary care doctor. After
>two visits and exhaustive lab tests, he said I was doing
>’fairly well’ for my age. (I just turned sixty-something.)
>A little concerned about that comment, I couldn’t
>resist asking him, ‘Do you think I’ll live to be 80?’
>He asked, ‘Do you smoke tobacco, or drink beer, wine or
>hard liquor?
>’Oh no,’ I replied. ‘I’m not doing drugs, either!’
>Then he asked, ‘Do you eat rib-eye steaks and barbecued ribs?
>I said, ‘Not much… my former doctor said that
>all red meat is very unhealthy!’
>‘ Do you spend a lot of time in the sun, like playing
>golf, boating, sailing, hiking, or bicycling?’
>‘ No, I don’t,’ I said.
>He asked, ‘Do you gamble, drive fast cars, or have
>lots of sex?’
>‘ No,’ I said…
>He looked at me and said, ‘Then, why do you even give a

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Why Susan Edlinger Started Surfing 10 Years Ago, At Age 50, Surfs Without A Leash And Urges You To Live Life With More Risk

Susan Edlinger wrote this article for Creative Living Magazine five years ago, when she was 55. There is a video on her blog of her surfing and describing her passion for her sport. She lives in Woodland Hills, California where she has her own business as an Executive & Life Coach, helping others tap into their own “inner surfer.”

Susan Edlinger

The scene: early morning on a beach in Santa Monica, California. I’m waiting for my instructor to arrive for my first surf lesson. I’ve got butterflies in my stomach and fear in my heart. What made me think I could do this? Why would I want to?

But within an hour, I am on my board and have just stood up on my first “white water.” (That’s surf lingo for catching the churning water just after the wave has broken.) And I am hooked. Surfing is like flying, or racing across a field bareback on a horse—a feeling of riding on a sheer force of nature, out of control and in control at the same time. The sense of freedom and power would change my life forever.

Fast-forward one grand first wave and hundreds of wipeouts later, and I’m spending a week at “Summer Fun Surf Camp” in San Clemente, California. I’m obviously the oldest “camper.” Everyone keeps telling me I am such an inspiration. I try to take this as a compliment.

I would not call this week “summer fun.” Surfing is difficult—in fact, the hardest sport I’ve ever attempted. By the end of the week, I was beyond exhausted. I had swallowed more water than I drink in a year. I had been tossed and held under by waves. I had cut my feet on rocks. I had cried daily with frustration.

Susan surfs with style

The surfing rule of thumb is that surfers spend 90 percent of their time paddling for, waiting for, and trying to catch waves, and 10 percent actually surfing. To really surf, you need great upper body strength, quick reflexes, and incredible balance. I realized quickly that if I didn’t build significant upper body strength, the only waves I’d ever experience would be waves of frustration. But I was determined to learn.

By now you’re probably wondering….why on earth would a sane, safe middle–aged woman even want to learn to surf? A year before I began, my oldest sister, and best friend, died of breast cancer. She was young; she fought the pain, fear, and sorrow heroically. When she died, I realized I was not only sad, but also afraid of dying, and worse, afraid of really living. But I vowed not to live in that prison. I would do one thing; take one small step, to say “yes” to the future. Surfing was my personal testimonial to embracing life.

Taking a break from the wake

Now five years later, surfing has carried me through. I’ve ventured to a women’s surf camp in Mexico, and on a surfing expedition to Peru. Sunday mornings routinely find me at “Mondo’s,” a family surf beach near Ventura, California. My sons have learned to surf, and as I sit with them waiting for waves, I can hear my youngest singing to himself as he scans the ocean for his next ride. And I know joy.

Susan also has some wise words on her blog about how to live an exciting life. She prefers to surf without a leash tied to her and the board. And she uses that metaphor to describe some of her attitudes about life.

To surf without a leash is, in fact, to take the risk of letting go of what we believe is our security. To actually untie ourselves from our security boards and still paddle out into the waves of life. What are some of these securities we are leashed to? For some people, it’s a familiar, though stagnant job, or a safe, but unfulfilling relationship. For others, it can even be smaller things, like majoring in a degree at college, because we think it will “make us money” vs. studying what we are really passionate about. It can be keeping quiet when someone has said or done something that bothers us vs. taking the risk of speaking the truth about how they affect us.

Surfing without a leash, is simply choosing to surf through our days, not necessarily without our security anchors, but rather not tied to them. It’s the courage to be willing to venture out into life, not knowing what will happen next. To leave that job, without another job in sight, to move away from an old relationship, without a new relationship on the line. To say what we really think and feel, not knowing what will happen.

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More Thoughts On Pro-Sport “Rule-Bending” And Cheating

Upset with people cheating on the tennis court, I told a friend of mine what I was learning about cheating in professional sports and mentioned proudly that I even knew about the Derek Jeter incident . As a former college varsity baseball and tennis player, he laughed at my naivete and recommended an article by Bob Ryan, a sports columnist for the Boston Globe. What an eye-opener..or really mind-opener. Here are some excerpts from that story.

…Let’s talk about this so-called gamesmanship. Only the terminally naive think our sports are played with constant devotion to the ideas of rule-adherence and sportsmanship. In truth, it’s very much a get-away-with-whatever-you-can sports world, with one glowing exception: golf.

Think about it. Basketball gives us flopping. Hockey gives us diving, which is the same thing. Soccer is so concerned with diving it actually calls for a yellow card, if so determined. Football also gives us flopping/diving on the part of pass receivers, and that’s before getting into the idea of holding, which, as is so often said, happens on multiple occasions on just about every play in the National Football League. They’d need 11 officials to catch it all, and 99 percent of it is intentional.

…Ever hear of an outfielder saying to an umpire, “You know, that ball actually bounced before I caught it?’’ Me neither.

…Along those lines, do you recall John McEnroe ever screaming at a linesmen or referee, “You imbecile! I did not deserve that point! The ball was in, not out!’’ Me neither.

To me, all this stuff is rather self-evident. Seeking an edge and accepting a bogus gift from an official have always been considered “part of the game.’’ At the very least, it can be rationalized as, “You win some, you lose some, but I want my share.’’

Well that’s the way it seems it really is. Of course tennis is supposed to be more of an honest, honorable and gentlemanly (or gentlewomanly) game. I mean in prep school—and maybe college—tournaments, your opponent is trusted to tell you whether a ball was in or out on his/her side, even if calling it “in” means he loses the game, set or match. Andre Agassi writes in his book how one kid knowingly called a ball incorrectly that cost Andre the match and maybe the tournament. He waited years to play that cheater again and get even somehow (I’ve forgotten). But talk about conflict of interests. You can see on TV how a ball can be in or out by just a few millimeters. So tempting for a cheater to call it in his own favor.

And that happens all the time. For me…I take pride in calling a close ball “in” that is in, even if the other guy then wins the point. Makes me feel good about myself. Same feeling I have when I examine a restaurant bill and point out that I was UNDERcharged. Good example for the kids. And an ego boost, because I believe I am one of the few people taking that unusual and honest action.

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Cheating in Pro-Sports Approved And Applauded

I’m confronted recently by a lot of condoned cheating in pro-sports and in daily life. Winning at any price is all that matters. What a terrible example for ordinary people and kids. No wonder a couple of my tennis buddies think it’s okay to cheat in our games. What do you think about this? I think it sucks that we are encouraged by sports stars and politicians to be dishonest and hypocritical.

Last night I read in a prayer book that if a sinner cheats and you don’t call him on it, then you have committed a sin yourself. It reminds me of West Point cadets taking exams on the honor system who see a fellow cheating and are supposed to report him. If they do, the cheater can be ejected or disciplined. If they don’t and are caught NOT reporting, then they can be disciplined as well. It’s a moral dilemma. What to do, what to do?

Here is a recent news item about two professional baseball athletes who think it’s good to cheat. I can barely believe and stomach their high paid rationalizations.

A pitch to Derek Jeter of the Yankees hit his bat. But the umpire said it hit his arm, which entitles Jeter to walk to first base. Joe Maddon, the coach for the other team (Tampa Bay Rays), came running out of the dugout and challenged the umpire’s call. He was evicted from the game. The next batter hits a two-run homer, including jeter, that puts the Yankees on top. In the end, the Rays won the game. However catch what Jeter and the coach said to reporters after the game

Maddon argued unsuccessfully that the ball hit Jeter’s bat, eventually drawing an ejection from the umpire, Lance Barksdale.

Jeter, who stood doubled over while receiving attention from a trainer, confessed that the ball hit the end of his bat and he sold the call to Barksdale with a good acting job.

“He told me to go to first base. I’m not going to tell him I’m not going to first, you know,” Jeter said. “It’s part of the game. My job is to get on base. Fortunately for us it paid off at the time, but I’m sure it would have been a bigger story if we would have won that game.”

Maddon disliked the call, but didn’t fault Jeter.

“If our guys had did it, I would have applauded that. It’s a great performance on his part,” the Tampa Bay manager said. “Several players are very good at that. And again, I’m not denigrating it. If our guy does it, I’m very happy with that if we end up getting the call. Fortunately it didn’t cost us.”

Another One Bites The Dust

I won a set today 6-2. It was the first time in a year of singles contests that I have ever been victorious against Bill, a four-days-a-week tennis player. He never gives up, he never makes it easy, he is as tenacious, “as Nadal,” he says. And he is a much much stronger player than I am. Even though he hadn’t played tennis in almost six months.

This is the third time in the last month or so that I have finally beaten someone who has always defeated me. The changes in my racket, strings and grip are paying off fantastically. So is the frequent practice. There is one more man I play with a lot who has never lost a set to me. I will keep on attacking that hurdle until I surmount it.

Nadal wins first US Open—2010

When Nadal and others win, they drop to the ground, kiss the clay, hold their disbelieving, crying, amazed and incredulous heads in powerful, skilled and sensitive hands. Sometimes, like Djokovic this year at the US Open, when he defeated Federer, they remain standing with eyes glazed and stupefied.

stunned Djokovic after conquering Federer

Other times they lie on the court on their backs or stomachs or roll around and dirty their clothes. In an instant their serious, stern, killer eyes and expressions transform into tears, stunned smiles and emotional release. It often intrigues me. Is it an act that they know the audience expects? The picture of the winner lying on the ground is frequently chosen to illustrate the news story.

So what am I feeling two hours after this challenge was met…or at the moment of triumph? A bit tired, of course. But no elation. There was an inevitability about it. My coach had predicted it would happen, that I could do it. My opponent had promised that it had to happen some day, and he said how proud he was of my accomplishment.

I also felt that I had arrived at the intersection of a dream and a reality. Yesterday this man and I played as well. I was ahead at one point 5-4 and was serving. As we sat on the bench during the changeover after odd games, I was conscious of this rare opportunity. But then I choked and ended up losing 6-8. Today at 5-2, I did all I could to rouse myself to really want to win, to play my hardest, to not throw points away with poor placements and dumb shot selection.

This time I made it. The great thing about a “first” is that it is a once in a lifetime event. The sad thing is that it can never be repeated.

Nevertheless, I did raise both arms in a victory acknowledgment, when I won the set point.

Immediately we played a rematch that I lost 4-6. I had been down 2-5, but fought back as best I could.

A friend saw me play in a tournament two weeks ago. “You don’t have that killer instinct,” she told me. “You aren’t as aggressive as the other opponents. Can’t you hit the ball harder? Don’t you want to really win like they do?”

As competitive as I think I am, I can never forget it is a game. But that is a crappy attitude. It involves constant rationalizing. In practice I can hit a solid ball. But I lack the confidence to do it in a contest.

In the army during bayonet practice, I would thrust my rifle (with the knife attached) at the soldier opposite me and scream “Kill! Kill! Kill!” as I was ordered to do. I was very surprised and upset to discover how quickly I really wanted to kill the guy I was facing. It scared me to discover how little it took to change my attitude.

But I can’t yet duplicate that emotional experience from 50 years ago. I want to. I want to be tougher. What will it take for me to find that inner child that hates and lusts to destroy my “enemy?”

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Dying With Boots On Or Tennis Racket In Hand

This is real delicate, so I am going to dance a bit. I went to a thank-you luncheon today with seven other men, two of their wives and the widow of a man who loved tennis and built a fabulous Har-Tru tennis court. This is a green, sandy surface that is similar to the red clay courts you may have seen.
There are many many men who play there during the summer. It is magnificent: surrounded by trees, the neighing of neighbors’ horses, singing songbirds, sunshine and clean air smells. It’s called Cliff’s Court, and Cliff’s widow, Fran, encourages us to use it, even though Cliff died playing tennis on an indoor court some years ago. She feels it shouldn’t go to waste, and Cliff would want us to enjoy it. She likes seeing us play, and some of us took her out as one way to show our appreciation for her kindness.

This is the second one of these lunches I have attended, and there is always a bit of talk about how grateful we are, and how Cliff loved playing. He was around 85 the day he died, and he had just won his set. He was ecstatic according to players who were there with Cliff his last moments alive. Someone always says it’s not a bad way to go, compared to a long, slow, lingering illness.

Then I heard another story from one of today’s diners, about how he recently had a doubles game and one of the regulars couldn’t make it. So he called a back-up player and invited him to play. This man, 67 years old, was happy to play, even though he had some knee problems. At one point during the game, he complained of some discomfort in his knee, needed to sit down…passed out and turned blue. Someone gave him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but it was too late. He also died on the court in the midst of a game he loved, after a set he also had won.

This story affected me acutely, because it reminded me of an incident decades ago, when my ex-wife and I went to Jacob’s Pillow in Massachusetts to see a dance concert. We hadn’t made a reservation and were frustrated that the local town lodging service couldn’t help us. Then someone in the office remembered a rooming house that had been shut down temporarily, because the owner had been sick and gone to the hospital. This B&B innkeeper was called, asked if she was back open for business, and responded that she was. So we checked in, saw the concert after a nice restaurant meal, and slept in a comfortable room, rather than our car.

When we came down for breakfast in the morning, there was a lot of commotion, an ambulance, crying adult children, and terrible news. The nice elderly innkeeper had died during the night. For over 40 years, I have felt some responsibility for her death. We weren’t the only lodgers who were taken in that night. There were one or two other couples. But we were the first two. And if we hadn’t needed that room so badly, maybe the person in the office wouldn’t have thought of that kindly tired woman who had been sick and wanted to earn a few dollars. Maybe she would have had a week’s more rest to recuperate and lived another 10 years.

So at the luncheon today, I thought of how innocently we affect each others lives. One tennis buddy has a meeting or a cold or wants to see a movie or is held up in traffic. His partner looks for a substitute, just like my friend Frank is doing right now, calling people to see if we can have our scheduled Thursday game, because two of the regulars are either out of town or unavailable. Maybe he finds someone who runs for one wide forehand, over exerts, skips a heartbeat or releases a clot, and…he is gone. Forever. To the tears and sadness of spouse, children, grandchildren.

It’s all so fragile. I heard at least twice today how “Life is Short.” That implies that you don’t have much time to do and enjoy all the pleasures and places that may be there for the taking. Just do it. No matter what the results. And maybe you too will pass on suddenly, and with a smile on your face, and a twinkle in your pained and fading eye…

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