A concept that I’ve noticed myself repeatedly thinking on with directness and clarity is that of “weakness”. Over the past months, it’s been something that I’ve been doing an extensive amount of thinking on and repeatedly procrastinating on drafting an entry on. After so much time continually shooting it off into the future, I’m well overdue to roll up my sleeves and give it my best shot.
When I first started really focusing my thoughts on the topic at hand, that first thing that came to mind was that familiar aggressive self-criticism: despite all the circumstances that caused it, the bottom line is that I simply wasn’t strong enough to not end up in a depressive spiral for an entire decade. To constantly see inspirational articles of people in the world conquering far greater adversities and thriving, finding myself with this very unflattering self-deprecating (and very public) writing log as the proof of the live I’ve led up until this point has been a source of both personal embarassment and resentment.
In turn, I found myself wrestling with the guilt of failing to recapture the strength that I once had. I recalled the memories of that time in my life where I knew happiness, and remembered feeling invincible in both character and mind. Yet, the more I reflected on these memories, the more I came to realize that I was recalling half-truths. Those times in the past when I was boisterous, opinionated, and outspoken…they were limited to the times I was around my family. I was free to be as arrogantly brave as I wanted to, because I had a nuclear arsenal on standby. If things ever were to go south, I had the assurance that the parents and siblings I looked up to would be there to back me up. The reality that I conveniently glossed over was that when I was physically separated from them, I turned into a docile sycophantic people pleaser.
If I jog the timeline all the way back to early childhood, I was completely soft, physically and emotionally. I had an extremely low pain threshold, and the sight of my own blood coming from even the smallest wound would send me into hysterics. As much as I was bold and outspoken, it was a confidence afforded to me by the comforting assurance that there were always people that I belonged to and would support me; my perceived strength back then was something borrowed, not innate. At my core, my nature was that of a pissant weakling.
A couple years ago, in one of those random conversations that take an unexpected turn towards a deep honesty I found myself having with my best friend, I remember him telling me that I was strong — the strongest person he knew. I recall feeling a brief esteem boost hearing that coming from him, right before being hit by an overwhelming wave of sadness at how untrue I felt that to be. Sure, I’ve exhibited resilience and resourcefulness that I never would have thought I had in me over the past few years, but the price I paid to do so is what destroyed me inside and sent me down that depressive spiral. I had to accept the loss of the life and identity I’d grown up with. I was forced to let go of all the people and relationships I was supposed to be able to rely on. Coerced into having to accept that the unconditional love of family and unwavering loyalty of friends was something that wasn’t real, or at the very least something the universe was determined to prove to me I wasn’t worthy of.
Revisiting those thoughts with my present frame of mind this year, I’ve finally flipped that perception. After all that time in isolation, going through those cognitive behavioral loops and rewriting the same old blog entries, I finally found the will to accept my reality and embrace the change into this new person I’ve been driving myself towards becoming. Before, it was out of a necessity that I resented, now it’s out of unbridled desire. Once upon a time, I was weak, and I knew it. I was insecure and utterly dependent on others for my sense of self and happiness. Now, the memories of my personal past, even up to just a few years ago, feel like the recollection of a previous lifetime. If I re-read my old updates, it’s almost as if I’m reading something written by a complete stranger.
During a recent play-through of Kingdom Hearts II a while back, there was a line of dialogue in a cutscene that stood out to me:
And so though it may have taken me far longer than it should have, through the copious amounts of weakness I once owned, I’ve carved out an awakened something new inside myself — its antithesis, an infallible reserve of mental-emotional fortitude and strength.
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.
August was a very active and noteworthy month for me. As I detailed in a DayOne journal entry I shared on the 31st, I walked/hiked/ran a cumulative 200 miles throughout the month, most of them running, an average of 6 per day without any daily lapses in physical activity. It wasn’t until the last week and a half that I realized how close I was to 200 mile mark, and really started pushing myself, bumping my daily range from 3-5 miles up to 8-10 miles. That, and the arm &and core training I started trying to take up, really put the beat down on my body — but it was well worth it, for it’s a lot stronger than it used to be.
In regard to weight, I burned off about 10 lbs, and apparently put them right back on. At the start of the second half of August, I was weighing in at the low 190’s — 191.7 lbs was the lowest I saw register on the scale during my weigh-ins. As I started aggressively chasing that 200 mile goal, running longer distances in spite of chronic lower back & leg muscle soreness and starting bodyweight/dumbbell workouts, my weight started to trend upward again. At the end of the month, I was back to weighing in between 197-199 lbs. Still being mostly unfamiliar with the degrees to which muscle growth affects weight, it felt like I hadn’t done enough working out to explain so many pounds gained. I pulled out the tape measure and took my usual targetted measures, and didn’t find myself changing input values much from the last time I took them.
Yet, despite what the scale and the tape measure imply, those pounds have got to be mostly from muscle. My legs, from the glute down, have an improved tone that I didn’t have last month. Even though I still have a relatively high concentration of abdominal fat, the paunch is smaller than it’s ever been. And where it used to muffin-top out in all directions, now it only hangs (slightly) from the front; the “love handle” flabs have significantly reduced.
When I take a glances in the mirror these days, I can see the beginnings of musculature poking through the body fat I’ve still got left. If I poke my fingers in towards my abs from the front, they travel through far less fat before hitting the muscle wall. Despite the lack of a massive shift in quantitative inch and pound measurements, I feel much more compact and hardier than I did just one month prior, and the improvements in my physical form & awareness (and pant fits!) show it’s been a vast improvement.
Yesterday I took the day off from all physical activity and took in calories indiscriminately. Today, I’m going to focus on easing myself back into activity with walking & yoga; tomorrow, it’s back to regular training. Let’s see if I can make September a 225-250 mile month.
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.
It happened as if to spite me: last week, I was back on track, made my progress update, and had a good & active remainder of the week. Saturday, I forced myself to walk over to Hillcrest and catch this year’s San Diego Gay Pride Parade for the first time in years, on account of this year’s big Supreme Court decision. I sold myself so well on the significance of it that when that thunderstorm rolled in, I headed out in nothing but jeans and a tee. I expected high humidity and light showers. Instead, the region got hit with unusual record rainfall for the month of July. I ended up leaving the parade early and headed back home for that very same reason – not having anticipated so much water, I didn’t have any adequate protection for my phone, and I wasn’t eager to adding having to replace a cell phone to the budget schedule. After returning home, drenched to last inch, I changed into some dry clothes and had a drink with friends who had been running late stayed at the apartment once the rain started to fall while I did a load of laundry. They soon headed out to the festivities, but I had clothes in the dryer and was feeling tired enough for a nap. And then’s when I got sick.
I went down at about 3 PM, waking up briefly at around 6 PM to get up and go retrieve the clothes from the laundry room. Back inside the apartment, I went right back to sleep for the rest of the day. Sunday, I woke up in the midmorning hours and had a cup of coffee while I planned out my day, then immediately hopped in the shower. When i got out and toweled off, I ended up taking a nosedive into my bed and not waking up again until 6:30 PM. By that point, the fatigue had begun to heavily involve cold sweats, muscle aches, a headache, vertigo…all sorts of fun symptoms. I was up for long enough to go, with great pains, out into the world to refill a 5 gallon water jug and pick up something to eat for dinner. I ate, hydrated, and went back to suffering in sleep. Monday, I made it into the office and got a couple hours of work in before the headache and searing pain in my eyes put me laid out on the office couch, trapped in a forced sleep state, actively fighting against the pain in my head and eyes and trying to gain enough composure to survive a drive back home.
Yesterday, I woke up feeling better than I had the day before, but still light in the head and heavy in the eyes. I sent a message to the boss, and grabbed a few extra hours of sleep. That seemed to do the trick; as the rest of the day ran its course, I found myself feeling gradually better and more “like myself” again. Today the same holds true, and I think I may have enough strength back to be able to get back to my running this evening.
After all that, sounds like the worst part about being sick these past days was all the physical pain and discomfort. Truth is, it was all (even the migraines) manageable. To me, the parts that caused me most trouble were the forced & sudden disconnect from my “self” (going from 5-8 mile daily runner to bed-ridden & incapable), the acute awareness of all the lost time, and the existential resentment of having the luxury to be able to lie in a bed and ride it out while for so many people out there, a simple natural temporary illness can be ruinous on so many critical, sometimes even fatal, ways.
Being physically incapable of exercising like normal and being too exhausted to write (or merely even think), trapped in a state of weakness and incapability, not being able to fight the fight for self-improvement…that’s what really made it such a miserable past few days for me.
Also, 4 days spent sleeping and waking up only to use the bathroom and eat…I don’t even want to look at my scale right now..
As it turns out, four bean salad is pretty awesome. Make a giant bowl of it for the week, nuke a Casual Gourmet red pepper chicken sausage (get ’em from Costco), and throw it on a bed of greens. Flavorful, filling, and economically efficient.
As I wrote in yesterday’s update, I recently passed my “break even” point and started consistently recording new record low weights on my digital scale, which means there’s now actual progress to update on. Rather than inputting everything into a spreadsheet/HTML table like I usually do, I decided to give the bodytrack.it app a try and log things straight to my phone. It’s rough around the edges (read:buggy) and data input took much longer than it should have. I’m not sure I’ll be using it again, and will probably stick to data tables and notes for record keeping.
Since it’s been so long since I’ve updated, I feel as though I should add photos…but I really hate taking them. Maybe next week.
Things on the physical front have been moving along in the same manner as my cognitive-behavioral efforts have: undocumented online, but still moving along steadily. I clicked into the cateogry archives to see when my last weight loss related entry was posted, and was surprised by the category description that loaded in the page header:
After some quick elementary school level mental math, the realization that I’ve been at this for three years now and am nowhere near completion started to nag at me. I haven’t updated since April to give myself time to focus on doing the work so that I’d actually have an update to make – March & April, I was having another one of those episodes of “unhelpful thinking”, and I overeat as a stress reliever in that mental space. For the past three weekends, I’ve kept telling myself “one more week” of activity before I start posting again.
Comparing my measurements and photos now to those back in March/April, there isn’t much difference on a surface level. I’m consistently weighing in a couple pounds lighter, and the targetted measurements at each body part is still more or less in the same range as before. Even though I’m still a ways off from a flat stomach & abs, all the activity has definitely had a great effect on me below the waist: I’ve started to build that desired “thigh gap”, and all of my leg muscles feel far more toned and strengthened.
Even though my running activity is higher now than it was when I first started occassionally running a couple miles as far back as 2010/2011, my body isn’t as responsive to my running activity as it used to be. Even with increased activity and dietary improvements, I’ve hit a wall. Though most people balk at the fact that I run 20 miles a day and would label me as highly active,, my insights from AddApp – a third party health data aggregator/parsing service – tell me otherwise.
My 5.2 miles that I try to do daily is only half of what I apparently should be doing each day. And both in my writing and to myself, I’ve been saying for a good while that I need to step up my game. Lately, I’ve taken to trying to wake up early in the morning to go for at least a short 3 mile run, clocking in over 8 miles for the day once the evening run is completed. So far, it’s definitely been testing my endurance and resolve. For the past couple weeks, my calves have been screaming at me for a break as soon as I step foot out the door.
Even then, that’s just a start. I did a search on bodybuilding.com for profiles that had my age/height/goal weight and a “fit” target body fat percentage, and pulled four random photos from the first page of results.
While I’m definitely much closer than I was a couple years back, there’s still so much more to go before I get there. I’m going to have to start implementing weight training, yoga, and crossfit into my routine, both long overdue additions. Not having much core/upper body/arm strength, I’ve been procrastinating and focusing soley on running to avoid dealing with the heavy soreness and pitiful performance that you have to overcome when you’re first starting to build muscle groups.
It’s a struggle, this quest for physical fitness. One of the biggest things I’ve learned from the process is a broader sense of compassion and understanding to extend to others. I know very well how hard it is to get motivated, to take that intial action, to stay focused and not fall back into bad sedentary & dietary habits. Then there’s the time, mental, and financial investments. Learning basic nutrition and anatomy, building a diet, having to go grocery shopping, having to cook, having to clean up, having to track of perishables and minimizing waste…it’s a lot of extra minutae to have to deal with. It makes me especially sympathetic to single parents who don’t have a family/friend support network to fall back on. The demands of modern life can easily make daily survival and personal health mutually exclusive.
Bringing my focus off the world at large and back on to myself, all there really is left to do is to get it done – and according to my Withings smart scale, I’ve officially hit the point where there’s actually a point in post updates to this blog category as of July 2nd. Time to push on up to the next level.
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…