Mini-Feature: Embracing Family and Fitness

Your weekly lifestyle tips from the editors, wokescold free!

What is your lifestyle tip for readers this week?

One of the things that strikes me about all these debates about material politics (who gets what, when, where and the lack of community and alienation, etc., etc.) is that many of the solutions are simple. Far up the tree of policy choices, for instance, if you want "real" neighborhoods again there is a simply solution that doesn't involve complicated architectural and social programs or massive changes in media and law: have kids. If every other house in a neighborhood is full of families again, I guarantee it brings the recalcitrant parents together and changes all the rest of the stuff downstream. Kids bring meaning to people's lives without technocracy and instruction manuals. Nature has prepared a way to grow and mature for the majority of people. Have kids and love and care for them. Listen to your nature. You have one. People have been doing this for millennia without experts.

It ain't easy today. I get it. So, if you have kids, my advice to you is to forget all the things you are supposed to do every once in a while and find stuff that you like doing with them. One night, for instance, I poured some gin into a glass for myself, turned Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" album up to 11 (don't ask, reminds me of fun childhood times), and played Texas Hold 'Em with my then 9, 6, and 4 year old until well past their normal bedtime. They've become pretty good at it. Earlier this year, I found all of my children earlier this year (then 13 to 2) vigorously dancing and loudly singing along to the “If you like Piña Coladas” song while cleaning the kitchen. I don’t know if I’m a good parent or not, but I decided to just start singing along with them. As my father-in-law says about marriage, natural institutions and communities are like a sailing a river: whatever you do, in most cases you can just stay in the damn thing come what may and you will eventually get to your destination: ride or die. And find ways to have fun doing it, for God's sake.

-Matt Peterson, founding editor of The American Mind


Live, laugh, love. 

Sike!

Here is my tip: ignore anyone who tries to sell you lifestyle tips in platitudinous form. And if they persist, spit something back at them. I recently, to some neighbors I don't like, said "maybe we are the virus, and the earth is trying to heal." Well, what the hell did I mean by that? I don't know! Sounds like something out of the Biden administration.

-David Bahr, managing editor of The American Mind

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It is not my practice to acquiesce to lockdown orders of any kind. But I know that some things are simply beyond our control, and gym closures may sometimes be one of them. Briefly during the heat of Los Angeles’s (and really, America’s) tango with panic and authoritarianism, I found myself completely gym-free. 

That is actually what catalyzed my current fitness obsession. I’ve always worked out in some way, more or less, but it must be said that I had let myself go a little bit. Having things forcibly pared back to the bare bones did re-center me. If you’re still in that position—or indeed if you’re considering getting healthier in any way—you might benefit from thinking through how you can addict yourself to getting stronk a little bit at a time. 

I put it that way because I have often been asked whether my own lifting craze is really a coping mechanism. To which my answer is: on some level, sure. But phrases like that do kind of imply that I’m doing something abnormal or excessive, and there I’m not so sure.  

Because the truth is we all have addictive, semi-dysfunctional tendencies and behaviors. I don’t think enough people internalize the fact that we genuinely are broken creatures, and on this side of heaven we will always be. We should seek balance, to be sure, and there are those with serious neurological challenges who need professional attention. But even as we work to iron out the wrinkles in our own psychologies, I think we all, on some level, end up making peace with a degree of neurosis in ourselves. 

What that means is, the difference between high-functioning people and others usually isn’t that the high-functioners have it all together. It’s that they have found ways to channel their obsessive, or depressive, or manic energies into something productive—something that works for them. Personally, I have found myself in danger of being consumed with rage at the world in the age of coronavirus. I have channeled that—and a fair degree of perfectionism—into a beast-mode gym routine. 

But if you’re just getting started on that journey at home, it’s important not to think of this whole thing as an all-or-nothing game. One of the worst excuses people make to themselves (without ever really articulating it fully) is that they don’t have the right equipment to get huge, so they can’t start. Well okay, but you have enough at your disposal to get bigger than you are right now, surely? Can you do 100 of every kind of push-up you know without stopping? If not, why are you complaining about gyms being closed? You’ve got work to do in the meantime. Once you start, even a little, you’ll eventually get manically, obsessively, think-about-it-all-day addicted. You know...in a healthy sort of way.

-Spencer Klavan, associate editor of The American Mind