It’s Monday morning, and I’ve instructed myself to crank out a quick update before heading into work to get the week started. Looking at the blog archives, I see that it’s already been two weeks since the last time I posted something. Typically, Mondays are the days where i’m supposed to crank out a weekly measurement/stat/photo update on the progress with the weight loss efforts, but the thing is…I really hate doing it. As much as I’d like to be the type of person that’s really into physiological quantification, rigorously tracking activity and nutritional intake and steadily heading towards peak physical fitness, the reality that’s become very evident over my past updates is that I’m not. Even with all the tools I’ve collected over time, from analog tools like tape measures and body fat calipers to smart phone apps and wifi connected smart scales, there’s no out-the-box solution to fully automate that capture. At some point, it still requires sitting down in front of a text editor and compiling all that information. Like most people that aren’t professional athletes/body builders, it’s not exactly my favorite thing to do, especially since body changes, even when implementing a better diet and copious amounts of physical activity, is still a gradual process that fails to deliver on the instant-gratification level modern life has made us accustomed to.
Much like I wrote at the beginning of the month, I’m still back in the high 190/low 200 lb range that I spiked up to at the end of August. For the majority of this month, I’ve been avoiding even stepping on the scale — knowing that the number it’s going to read out lacks context and doesn’t account for the trade off in fat to muscle that my increased running and body weight training has been causing, it feels pointless to take a measurement that I know is inherently inaccurate. I tell myself that I should at least fall back to the tape measure & photographs, but those are tedious and time-consuming to take as well. Yet, despite the lack of activity with written updates, activity in real life has stayed steady. I’m still steadily moving ahead with that pursuit of personal purpose and power I most recently wrote about. I’m looking at 10 miles a day for the rest of the month if I’m going to meet the 200 mile goal again for this month (which I fully intend to), and have been upping my game with the non-cardio workouts; over the past week and half, I’ve been spending a lot of time with a new friend who’s a professional yoga instructor, and he’s both forced and inspired me to raise the bar for myself. In addition to the body weight routines and 7-minute workouts I’ve been doing, I’ve also (finally) started actively targeting abdominal/arm muscles and general flexbility with the aim of being able to pull of advanced yoga poses and handstands like he can.
More noteworthy than any set of measurements and photographs I could post is the feedback I’ve been getting in direct conversations with people, having recently started making a change from my ascetic & hermetic ways of the past few years. Though I regularly allow RunKeeper to cross-post my activity logs to my social media accounts, outside of the occasional Facebook Like and Twitter Favorite, I don’t usually see much by way of commentary. Yet, in “catching up” with old friends & acquaintances conversationally, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see it routinely being brought up by the other party.
It’s validating to hear that my desired intent, to inspire even just one person on even the smallest level, is taking place out with these updates, even if I’m not immediately made aware of it.
Over the past weeks, I’ve been myopically focused on my running and fitness. That race to [two hundred miles] before the end of the month of August consumed as much time as it did energy, and in the past week of recovery and return to my training, I’ve been mentally organizing all of the non-fitness related things I’ve been meaning to write on, and at the top of the list landed a recent meditation I had on the purpose of this blog.
As I’ve acknowledged many times before, I’m painfully aware of what a terrible web presence I’ve built over the past few years. I’ve reduced myself to a repeated string of unsympathetic lamentations, an addict of melancholy rumination, mentally-emotionally damaged goods unable to regain control of his own mind and thoughts. I’ve still been wrestling with the idea of unpublishing and deleting it all, but I always ultimately conclude that I can’t just give up — after all that time spent trapped in that lesser place and invested in attempts to write about it all, to suddenly and conveniently sweep it under the rug would be very disingenuous.
But where before when I took to writing about weight loss and battling depression I mainly did so to help myself make sense of it all and to earnestly self-express (even just in some largely unexplored corner of the WordPress space), as stated on the about page, now my the purpose for my efforts on both fronts stems from something else: now, it’s about power.
I re-read my writings from 2014, and they’re largely focused on trying to wrap up the loose strings in my mind and mustering up the courage to take that new self I tore myself out of my old life from to find out into the world and subject it to trial. The ones throughout this year have been of a self-coaching tone, motivations to seek out and embrace more intense challgenges for myself — physically, mentally, and emotionally. When my inner monologue starts dictating to my hands now, it feels more self-confident than it probably ever has. Though there’s still so much left to go on my journey of personal development, I believe that I’ve learned and made enough progress to speak on things with at least some degree of authority on account of personal experience. As if I’ve finally qualified myself as someone who actually has something worth saying.
Throughout the majority of my life, I’ve known myself as weak. Emotionally dependent on others, physically weak and soft (and drastically overweight/out of shape), socially inept and cowardly sycophantic. Every time I felt myself strong and capable, it felt like a borrowed power, not my own but a result of the synergy with whoever I had in my life at the time. Treading through the depths of depression and conquering a borderline personality disorder, abandoning my personal relationships and living in perpetual isolation in search of life without external influence — all of that effort has brought me to this current present, a place of strength and an unshakable holistic grasp & understanding of myself…an a renewed sense of purpose. The polar opposite of the person I was just a few years ago.
I don’t physically train for health or the vanity of appearance. I do it to prepare myself for martial arts training and high-level outdoor activities. I keep writing about myself not to be known or understood, nor the hope that my experiences might be of help to others other there, but rather the firm belief that they can.
Seems it’s been a whole month since I last composed an update. Life’s been full of change and really busy since the end of the previous month. My best friend and long time roommate moved out, leaving me facing the prospect of being out in the world and sharing living space with someone I didn’t have an existing relationship with for the first time ever. After doing the interview rounds on Craigslist, I ended up with a 25 year old guy from Germany that’s going to be studying at San Diego State University for a year.
From the night I picked him up at the airport, it’s been a non-stop month full of activity. Since he had the first three weeks as down time before the semester started, we’ve been going around getting him setup for his stay (getting cell phone service, a bank account, etc.) and familiarized with the city. Even on workdays, soon as I’ve gotten home and knocked out a run, we’ve been off to go explore San Diego. All that foot travel has been definitely helping with the weight loss efforts — every weekend, I’ve been matching/exceeding my running miles (5-8) with our sight-seeing walks.
As far as a roommate goes, I think I got really lucky. He’s very easy going, and generally open to trying anything and maximizing his experience here in the US. Almost every night we’ve gone out to a sit-down place, we’ve ended up meeting new people and sharing a dinner table with complete strangers.
One of the German words he’s taught me that I really like is lebensgefühl, which means one’s “awareness & attitude towards life”; mine has improved greatly over the past few weeks. I feel fully locked and engaged with life now, steadily moving forward. The memories of the past few years, all the posts I’ve drafted along the way, seemfeel completely foreign to me. That place of confusion, fear, doubt, and helplessness, all those past burdens I couldn’t unshoulder, all left behind for good and determinedly a place I am literally incapable of returning to. I don’t worry about myself having relapses into depression and unhelpful mental/behavioral loops because they don’t apply to me anymore.
This sense of completeness and confidence in both it and myself are what I’ve been relentlessly pursuing the past decade. To deconstruct, analyze, and reform an entire lifetime and personality was a hell of a process. Now, starting to really see and believe myself to be that person I’ve aspired to be, that opposite of the mental/emotional damaged mess I used to be, it’s good to have my inner monologue back in a supporting role, no longer the harsh and hyper-critical warden I forced it to become.
Readjusted. Rebalanced. Refocused. And ready to get shit done.
Almost two full months since last I wrote here. Looking through my archives earlier this morning, I realized that I’d been doing a fairly decent job at offline writing in my DayOne journal between May and now. Still, that’s pretty much the bare minimum, and it doesn’t get the blog updated.
Fact of the matter is, I scared myself away from online writing for awhile. At this point, I’ve beat the horse dead throughout all its lifetimes when it comes to expressing reservations about keeping the online writing habit when younger-me made the call to make myself the central topic; each time I do, I reach the same conclusion, where it’s something I can’t just quit, having put the worst parts out there.
So having made such a bold commitment to permanently moving past old habits, I’ve been doing my writing in a place no one else can see it in case I wasn’t able to make good on it. As it turns out that has not been the case: over the past two months, I’ve been enjoying a peace of mind and mental clarity I’ve been working so tirelessly at being able to reclaim – that default state of mind that’s easy to take for granted: to have the ability to wake up and feel finely in tune with your reallity and your ability to influence it, to see each day as an opportunity to do and accomplish instead of the necessary routine drudgery life can become for anyone, moreso for someone in a compromised mental/emotional state. More importantly, it doesn’t feel “borrowed”, as if something that could disappear at any moment. It feels innate and rightfully mine. After all the years of psychological/emotional/spiritual/existential deconstruction of my thinking and the past that influenced it, I’ve found myself finally returned to that place of unshakeable confidence that’s reached when you really “know who you are”.
As a result, it’s become much easier to write and journal for myself. Instead of spending my thought cycles trying to figure myself out and stave off those negative thought/behavior patterns, my mind is free (and able) to focus on articulating that which I already know.
Things are starting to get very interesting for me and my writing output…
This day has traditionally been the most challenging one of every year, one with it’s very own uniquely painful thought loop that leaves me thinking/saying/feeling/writing things that I immediately regret the day after.
It begins with seeing everyone sharing their love and celebrations for their mother, the influx of marketing messages extolling the greatness of “mom”. For a short while, I become bitter with envy, jealous that I don’t get to see my mom, call her, or go to bed at the end of the day with the comfort of that unconditional love and support and the assurance that it will still be there when I wake up – but I do get to see how everyone else does. Yet another way in which I am not like most other people.
Then, I make the usual mistake of asking myself “why?”, and those trapdoors to the past get flung wide open. I tell myself to stop and cut it out, but I never listen, I always go through them. I spend a good portion of the day in a pseudo-meditative state, letting my strong sense of recall do the driving, retreading the past that has lead to this present reality. And so every year on this day, I usually go through it all over again: the fear, the betrayal, the anger, and most of all, the loss. I relive what it was like to lose that closeness to my way into this world, that special relationship with that one person who will always be there for you. And also how in the process, I also had my sense of family unity, one of my key defining elements, ruthlessly stripped away out from under me.
By the time I’m done working my way up to the present day in my introspective trip down tragic memory lane, I’m usually in a very agitated state, angry at life for how it has played out, for all the years lost crippled by the past, and myself for not being strong enough to rise above it all, for being a hypocrite and failing to be that better self I tell myself to be, for being weak and wanting to go through that process just for brief glimpses of the comfort in what once used to be.
But not this year, not anymore. With all this focus on actually letting go these past couple of months, I don’t feel that familiar burden anymore. Today is just like any other day, vibrant with the buzz of other people who do have healthy relationships with their mothers. Rather than focus on the outcome of the relationship with my own, I remember what it was like when it was there, and am happy for those out there who haven’t taken similar unfortunate turns.
That said, I’ve got a few wonderful people I know who are mothers that I need to write personal celebratory greetings to.
To all the good moms out there: Happy Mother’s Day
It’s been almost three weeks since my last update, and a lot has changed in the time since then. I’ve done a lot of thinking on that recent mental relapse and all of the unhelpful thought & behavior loops that fed into it, so as to permanently distance myself from it all. Becoming that ideal self I’m always writing about, the one that actually practices that stoic resilience that I adulate, means giving up the comfort of running back to those old familiar habits. Clinging to them and fighting the same battles I already know is easier than holding myself to the higher standards I set for myself and self actualizing.
In this recent round of self-reflection and mental debugging, I learned a lot about myself, things I do want to drill down to in finer detail later on. Most importantly, I’ve come out of it not feeling like I’m having to convince myself that I’ve “figured things out”, but rather feeling as if another piece of the myself has fallen into rightful place. Back in January, I wrote that I felt myself closer to the goal than I did my starting point all those years ago. Indeed, what’s taken me three weeks to do with a clear and focused mind used to take me months with questionable outcome in times past.
I acknowledged that the road ahead would be a difficult one at the start of the year. Forfeiting an entire identity and becoming a complete nobody to myself was a challenge in itself. Figuring out the person I actually wanted to be and convincing myself I could make the change, that I wasn’t the lost cause I felt myself to be, another huge obstacle in the personal journey. Having started to actively enact that change, my previous posts feel more and more foreign to me when I reread them – which leaves me feeling as if I’m finally able to legitimately speak on matters of overcoming depression and personal betterment.
All these past years, the majority of my 20’s, lost to overcoming the aftermath of the life that once was. Having to walk away from it all and start from scratch was my only escape from the spiral of depressive madness, and my strong sense of recall did not help matters; being capable of mentally reliving the memories you’re sacrificing makes it that much harder to let go of them. In turn, it feels like I’m born again at the age of 29, finally a “real” person again and immediately in debt with the task of cleaning up after my recent past, on multiple levels.
And it’s now nothing but more doable work that needs be done.
Since my last update, I’ve been heavily preoccupied in regaining control of my thinking, and dissecting the recent weeks to figure out why I broke this time, and in turn, better guard myself against it in the future.
As I detailed to in my last entry, I’m shadowed by a strong feeling of self-resentment – with all the self-analysis that I do, I have a constant awareness of myself, but clarity does not inherently translate into motivation and self-control. Instead, I’m mired in a frustrating mental limbo where part of me is screaming what I’m doing wrong and what I need to do to fix things, and the other part of me shrugging it off as a pointless waste of effort. The world seems to be slowly going to hell, and even if it isn’t, am I really worth trying to salvage?
And when when I ask myself what would motivate me, I couldn’t come up with an answer for myself. Living life as it is now, without the close ties to friends & family (or at least the illusion thereof), that only leaves myself as my sole source of motivation. Most everything I do is by myself, for myself, and while it’s objectively proper and logical for any self-sufficient person, for me – someone who covets the tribal sense of community and has lost it time and time again – it feels more like a sentencing to a lifetime of lonely internal isolation. What’s the point in “making something” of myself if I’m the only one who’ll benefit?
This is self-sabotaging foolish thinking that I’m laughably addicted to. Digging back further through the archives, I came across some of the more helpful entries I’ve composed: advice on resisting the inner critic, the transient nature of the “self, and more than a few proclamations of self-mastery. Yet, when push comes to shove, I’m all too eager to let all those ideals fall out the window in favor of the familiar comfort of futility and helplessness. It’s the last remaining piece of that past self that I cling on to, no matter how much I press myself to finally let it go.
But I’ve grown definitively weary of stagnating. I’m tired of writing about struggles in the present tense from a challenged perspective instead of from one of authoritative victory. This blog is supposed to be the record of a transformative story, and it’s time to move it in a new direction. No more falling victim to my own mental traps.
Having revisited my past entries right after the start of the new year in preparation to resume actively writing, the events and changes over the past three years are fresh in my mind. Comparing the place I was at then to where I am now, I finally sincerely feel I’ve reached a pivotal milestone on my personal development path: the turning point where I’m feel closer to the destination of that idealized self I’ve been pursuing than I am to the trainwreck I was when I first started down this road.
Back at the start of said inward journey, I decided it would be a one-year effort and that I couldn’t afford to invest the full three years of the legend of Musashi I modeled it after. But that single year wasn’t enough time, and eventually became those very three I planned on bypassing. The road to recovery has been as arduous as it has long. As self-involved and melodramatic as I sound even to myself on the matter, breaking down and discarding and entire history and identity, a life, and building someone better out of the remnants is no mean feat, but what I ultimately needed to make my peace and move on.
Now when I read the things that I wrote then and recall the mindset and the what it felt like to be myself at that time, it feels like I’m looking through the lens of someone else’s life. And as I wrote at the start of the new year, the road ahead is still long – but I’m at least now moving fast in the right direction.
One of my main to-do list at the office today was to verify that the freelance photo editor/photographer that we’ve contracted online to process the backlog of remodeling jobsite photos had received the latest batch I’d prepared. Since he is located on the other side of the world in Europe, our correspondence has become equally conversational and business oriented as a workaround to the lack of shared in-person working hours that traditionally build a working rapport.
When I received his reply at mid-morning, he admitted that he’d gotten curious and done some investigative Googling, found this blog, and had read a few entries. By the time I reached the end of the message, I counted four separate compliments on my writing ability. Immediately, that inner critic started spouting off in my head how and the many reasons why I was undeserving of any compliment in that regard.
When your mind starts to deny the validation of a sincere compliment, be humble. When you deny yourself a compliment from someone, the hidden implication is that you don’t believe others know what they’re talking about. That modified perspective allows you to call out that inner critic for the arrogant asshole he is, and in turn removes the power from any of the thoughts in your mind he provokes. If you take the compliment, you did something well enough to earn it. If you privately don’t, you’re arrogant and a terrible person to yourself. It’s a lot easier to make the better choice when the problem is properly identified, structured, and presented to yourself.
That said, much as I’ve learned how to shut that part of my psyche up, I’ve also learned that it’s important to be able to pull out the truth in what that inner critic is saying.
As I was processing my email later this evening, I realized that I’ve been receiving a surprising number of new subscriber notifications. Now, because of the time I spent working in the SEO industry and learning how it works, I’m automatically suspicious of any kind of follow notification. However, clicking through a few different blogs and reviewing their content, I concluded that nearly all of them are run and updated by real people. Followers don’t necessarily equate to active readers, but they do indicate a potential audience. One to which I’m definitely not bringing my best to.
Subsequently, those self-criticisms from minutes earlier became the focused motivation for improvement they’re meant to be: write more, read more, and do better enough at both to the point where my inner critic has no reason to even start talking.
I loaded up the last entry I wrote to give it a secondary review before switching it from “draft” to “published” status, and that inner-critical voice immediately got to work. The situation being my own mind attacking itself, I was just as much criticising everything I write as I was that single entry. If you’re supposedly not that person anymore, why can’t you just drop it and leave it alone for good? You read like a badly written petulant & pretentious closet-narcissist. Is this finally going to go anywhere, or are we circling back to pointless babble. Again.
Self-acceptance: I’m constantly an asshole to myself, but that’s how I move myself forward; doubt is how areas for improvement are recognized. My inner monologue is not a positive self-affirming voice – and that’s okay. The potential pitfall to this approach, the one I not too long ago was deep into, is letting the drill sergeant take control and actually break you. Moreso if you’re the self-aware introspective type; knowingly completely how flawed your thinking is, and being powerless to break away from it.
So I tell myself to stop being a dick, but that I have good points. After so much time already invested (and even wasted) on “looking back”, it does make more sense to focus on the present & future instead of putting it back towards things already past. Considering all the greater adversities that other people are facing and conquering every passing day, this tireless determination to tell the story of my own makes me feel that I must either be really in love with myself or addicted to dwelling in my past misery.
So I tell myself to stop being a dick again; I should know better than anyone to accuse myself of being in love with myself having spent day after day for years feeling the polar opposite of that sentiment. And sure, my story may not be anything worthy of a Hollywood prestige biopic, but it’s still my own. Flawed, fucked up, and unproud of it as I may feel about it a lot of the time, it’s what I have to tell, much as I wish it were a different story entirely. Most people spend their 20’s in self discovery and adventures in life, big and small. Mine have been consumed by a decade-long war against myself.
It may be counterintuitive to progress to keep focus on that huge part of my life I’ve written off, but the way the world is, keeping it to myself and burying it in the past does my little good, but putting it out there, in whatever pieces it comes in, may do someone else some good. May just be pointless hopeful idealism, but “dare to dream”, as they say. That, and I’ve already started – even though it’s a decision my present self would probably make differently, I can’t leave business unfinished.