Cheetos Lovers

They were your normal middle aged America couple; the ones that asked if they could share our table at Glacier Point. She was clean, dressed in typical vacation attire and about 25 lbs overweight. He was pale, and had long ago traded playing a sport for watching sports on TV. As they sat down, I glanced at their trays. They both had a Now with 25% more bag of neon orange Cheetos and jumbo sodas. She had a deli meat-stuffed sub and he had a well-dressed hot dog.

Across from me sat my sister; her hair was windblown except that bit in the front that was sweat plastered to her forehead. She looked and probably smelled, not so fresh. I’m sure I was not any better. We were taking a moment to have a coffee and collect our courage to head back down the mountain the same way we got up – on our feet.

Glacier point is listed as a strenuous hike in the Yosemite literature because of the length and the gain in altitude. Our hike was 11 miles round trip with a gain (and then loss) of 3000 ft. As real hikers go it’s probably more intermediate than strenuous. But we’re not real hikers yet. The summit of Glacier Point is unique because it is possible to get there via car, tour bus or on foot. On the day we climbed we saw maybe 30 hikers and 300 that arrived by motor vehicle. A good portion of the hikers ride up and hike down.

Not us. We left open the possibility if we made it up and felt we couldn’t get down we would hitch a ride but we were determined “not to cheat” if at all possible.

Which leads us back to our coffee (and their lunch) with the “Cheetos Lovers”. In a moment of altitude-induced clarity I realized, I have been them. Standing on the sidelines watching others live. Having my entertainment delivered with a hotdog and a coke. The sad thing is I never really decided on this less active lifestyle, I just kind of slipped into what everyone else was doing. I would bet this is the way most people end up on the bus.

In recent years, I’ve tried to do more and watch less and sometimes I’ve even succeeded. I am currently not a tour bus riding Cheetos lover, but neither am I one of the slim and fit athletes (some old, some young) we watched glide up the trail. Nope, for sure. I stopped a more than a few times to allow my heart rate to slow to something short of the imminent heart attack zone. But I’m working on it.

I’m going to hold on to the moment of clarity and re-ask myself frequently to commit. It’s all about deciding who you want to be. For me, right now I want to be an active participant. How about you?

Be Where You Are

Spending more than you can personally afford on “good” things like education, food and housing is no better for your bank account than overspending on entertainment, fashion or cars.

Lately it seems I have been talking to many people that are enduring financial hardship but are not necessarily overspending on luxuries. They are not getting their morning caffeine fix at Starbucks nor do they have 30 pair of shoes in their closet. Many of them have not taken a real vacation in years or even forever. Still they struggle to meet their monthly obligations.

Most of the time, I find people in this position are suffering from an unrealistic view of where they are.

Comparing our lifestyle to others does not provide an accurate measure of the reasonableness of our spending. Your rent may be cheap when compared to other housing options; but how about when it’s compared to your income?

If almost everyone in your community owns a car, it does not mean you can afford to own a car right now. Your income and your other obligations determine what you can truly afford.

If you are not paying your bills on time, do not have an emergency fund equal to six months expenses, cannot form a plan that gets you out of debt except for the house in 24 months; you are broke.

You need to take moment to be where you are.

Broke is not a lifetime thing. It is recoverable, but it may well take spending less, even much less on necessities for a while.

The Magic Moment

While working with clients that are financially out of control, I have oft times observed the magical moment when hope re-enters their lives. This occurs way before any significant financial progress is made.

In our new cable free life, we have enjoyed watching some different TV series on Netflix. We’ve both  enjoyed some pretty good shows that we never would have found on cable, like BBC’s “Luther“. One show that I watch alone is “Heavy“. Jim just doesn’t get how I could possibly enjoy watching these extremely obese people struggle to lose their weight.

It’s not about the weight, it’s about that moment. You can see it happen right before your eyes. These people have been without hope for years. Most of them are carrying not only hundreds of extra pounds but also, tons of emotional baggage. Many can trace the beginnings of their spiraling weight problems to the death of a loved one or abuse they suffered or some other traumatic event. They show up at this residential weight loss resort; either hoping for a miracle or expecting to fail.

The fact that they are both the Problem and the Solution never occurs to them. Some are modern-day princesses; they have never done anything hard in their whole life (at least not on purpose). They whine, they shirk, they rationalize and they blame others. But the trainers just keep pushing, pulling, encouraging and demanding of them. There is a constant effort to re-focus the client on their ultimate goal. The trainers absolutely refuse to listen to the “I can’t, it won’t work, I am trying” whining.

And then it happens. Sometimes you see the start of it at the first weigh in, sometimes it takes several weeks but you can see it the day the switch flips. They suddenly find hope and take ownership. The trainer isn’t eating 1200 calories or working out 4 hours a day; the client is. When the client figures out that they are doing this and that maybe they can achieve that goal; their whole attitude and outlook changes. What once was a downward spiral reverses and every day they get more hopeful, more confident, and more determined.

This same scenario plays out every time we re-learn self-control in any area of our lives. We find, much to our surprise, that we do have choices, we can control our lives, and there is reason for hope.

We don’t have to finish to find this place; we only have to start.