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.
Last month, physically, was a massive setback. Most of the first quarter of 2015 has been spent wrestling with light medical complications, stress eating, personal disinterest, and good old fashioned laziness. In the process of clawing my way out of the recent funk I’ve been in, I’ve been treating my workouts less like to-do list items and more like militaristic mandates – get the work done, no matter what.
In truth, what really helped snap me back into focus was an email update I got from Memoir resurfacing a post from last year. Finding myself in the present weighing almost 10 lbs more than I did back then, I immediately started to get back to running regularly, in addition to adding light dumbbell and body weight activities.
When I stepped on the scale this weekend, I was fluctuating between 198-202 lbs., which is halfway back to where I left off when I was on top of my game late 2014. Normally, this is where I’d put together one of those “Measurement Monday” posts, but I’m not exactly eager to begin quantifying myself since I’m still in the process of losing weight I’d already very recently lost before.
Even without the numbers, there’s still some noticeable improvements taking place. Though I’m not back to my record lightest at 192lbs, my clothes fit me closer to the way they did then rather than the last time I was in this present weight range. The dude-boobs are withering away and starting to take on the shape of pectoral muscles, I’m starting to form curvature in the gluten and getting rid of my flat “office ass”, and I’m slowly and steadily building the lump on my arms.
As long as I don’t falter on my commitment to not breaking again, it shouldn’t be before long until I’m back to the old peak shape and pushing the record further.
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.
Last weekend, I resolved to actively get back on task with the fitness efforts, to undo the damage I did over the winter and resume making actual progress. The very next day, I had a stumble while I was a mile and half into my run and gave myself a moderate ankle sprain – enough to where the pain resulting from the application of even the slightest pressure causing me to have to take the day after off from work.
Through the rest of the week, I’ve been getting around with a funny gait. It’s healed quickly enough to where I’m able to walk normally, but even now I’m still feeling random spasms that tell me that trying to get back to running so soon would be a poor judgement call. Being effectively benched for the week and not being able to practice my better exercise habits, my nutriotional ones have followed in suit.
In other words, I’ve been indulging heavily in food, and have undoubtedly added even more pounds that I’m going to have to make up for. The turn of the new year did very little for me by way of inspiring that sense of change and a fresh start. However, the passing of another birthday has more than made up for it. Even with a bum ankle, there’s no shortage of alternative action I could have taken to keep myself aligned with the long-term goals. It’s very easy to rationalize inaction, and that’s something that I should be much more efficient at managing by this point in life. Especially since I know where I ultimately end up, in this very place I find myself now: feeling like I’ve failed, and angry at myself for having afforded myself weak excuses.
In the time since my last post, I’ve been keeping myself busy mostly with work, personal studies, and getting back in form with my running. Between all the big meals over the holidays and the running days missed because of the cold and my insufficient willpower, my times, stamina, and even the drive to get my route done has noticably suffered. That same night I made my last update, I had a friend comment on my run, asking when I’d be posting photos:
I’ve been meaning to do just that, in addition to the measurement tables I used to post in my old “Measurement Monday” updates. Thing is, I know that there hasn’t been any overall progress since the last time I updated them – I’ve been staganating and fluctuating in the same weight & BMI range. In preparation to get back to doing those updates, I’ve been clocking in more time with the pull-up bar and body weight exercises in addition to my running route. In a couple weeks time, I’ll be back to my pre-winter state and ready to push further, adding regular resistance training into the mix as well as a complete dietary overhaul.
On the writing front, things haven’t been moving along as fast as I’d like due to some extentuating circumstances in the personal life that go beyond the scope of this update. Still, I’m preserving the momentum, and look forward to the results I’m going to start seeing in all areas of life in the coming months.
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.
The New Year is freshly begun, and that universal milestone has come announced by a new set of goals and challenges. I spent the entirety of 2014 berating myself for not producing more writing output due to that annoying predisposition to debate whether what I’m thinking is even worth taking the time to capture, more so in then having to search for the words to commit them through. Getting overwhelmed by my own thinking and eagerly submitting to my inner-critic have been both obstacle and convenient excuse to getting the work done and the story told. Over the remaining days of the previous year, I started pushing myself to journal more (digitally and on paper) to get retrained with the ability to process and organize thoughts when they’re staring at you straight in the face; preparation for getting back to writing sessions that end with the push of a “publish” button.
Reading back through the archives to refresh my memory on what exactly I’d posted in past entries, I was pleasantly surprised at how not abysmally awful the thoughts I’d captured in text were put together. Though it is embedded throughout repetitive self-critical ruminative loops, there is a pretty accurate record of the journey and the progress I’ve made with myself as a whole. I broke myself down and pulled the pieces apart, severed all of my attachments, committed myself to self-betterment and the quest for knowledge and personal mastery – in effect, I’ve taken a very roundabout way to get to my personal knockoff variant of East Asian philosophy.
Long and arduous as that process has been, it was the easy part. Wiping the slate clean and turning myself into the nothing I felt like was like a very long downhill run – hell on the knees, but ultimately doable, you just have to maintain balance and not trip. But now I’ve reached a seminal turning point along this journey, where the time for reflection and recovery has expired; the challenge has shifted from “not being” and “becoming” towards action. It’s a personal admission and declaration I made a few times last year, but I was still missing the drive to power it with, too comfortable with being that hurt and helpless nobody and too scared of being incapable of becoming anybody else to fully commit to pushing myself further.
But it didn’t stop me from trying — and in my private attempts and subsequent failures to enact change throughout the past year, I found myself met with self-acceptance, patience, and compassion than the usual criticism, resentment, and loathing. After so much time rewiring my thought processes, I finally started lending belief towards the ideals I’ve been telling myself I ascribe to and the person I’ve made my goal to become. So begins 2015, with myself no longer focusing on how far I’ve fallen and why I hate myself, but with the clarity of mind to how it happened, and more importantly, what came from it all.