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…
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.
This morning, I wrote in my handwritten journal for the first time since early February. After putting together a rudimentary system for digitizing and archiving my pen & paper entries in synch with my digital DayOne entries, I told myself that I’d start to physically write more to improve my penmanship and to train my writing focus – you can’t tab out to a web browser and get lost when the only thing in front of you are analog writing tools. For my entry, I opted for my overdue personal “snapshot” that I try to write for myself every month.
As I identified the things I’ve been struggling with and committed them to the page, the narrative started to feel very familiar: something(s) happened in my personal life that exhausted my mental stamina and sent me running with open arms into old habits that set me back and cost me the progress I’ve made with my physical training. Circumstantial loops triggering behavioral loops in that leave me wavering in a static weight & fitness range, which gets harder and harder to maintain as the undeniable affects of aging start to take their toll (lately, I’ve had persisting sensitivity in my joints).
In addition to those behavior loops, I also have old thought loops that I have to actively stave off. Despite all the running I do, the other choices and efforts I make are not resulting in progress that would give me something I feel worth taking the time to write about. The resulting frustration from that trapped static feeling threatens to crack open the door and let in all those old unhelpful perceptions: a mental space of helpless nihilistic futility and general disinterest in life.
California is drying out. The planet is overheating and growing overpopulated. Pollution runs rampant. Nations are actively at war, international tensions high, terrorism still a highly active threat. The economy continues to struggle. In spite of all the great things modern technology has to offer us, the world just seems to be swan diving to hell. What’s the point in holding onto any of the dreams and goals I’ve ever had for myself?
Much as I’ve put wrestled with those issues for the past three years and put them and the flawed mindset that resulted behind me, being such an expansive part of my recent personal history they still follow in my shadow, detracting my focus and tempting me to walk along that path once more.
As I’ve done time and time before in pulling myself out of this rut, I steel my resolve by reaffirming my commitment to the pursuit of self-actualization. It is okay to harbor those thoughts and that weakness, so long as I don’t let it stop me. Things may seem to only be getting harder and still drifting away and out of reach, but that only leaves me with the option of pushing harder and faster.
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.
Yesterday morning, I woke up another year older. Twenty nine years now that I’ve been living the story of my life. Another year put behind me, and only one left before time expires on the third-decade deadline I’ve set for so many personal goals. I implemented a social media blackout to cut around a lot of the birthday noise, had a quiet day at the office, then went out to a small intimate low-fuss dinner with my friends. As much as I enjoyed last year’s fun-themed outing to Dave & Buster’s, this year’s surprise arrangements were far better aligned with my present preferences; I’m not yet at a point where I’ll allow myself to feel worth celebrating, still too much work to be done.
This morning, I woke up calm, rested, and ready. Long have I contemplated and written about the need to take action. Today, armed with unshakable confidence and determination, begin those aggressive first steps.
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.