Setbacks Are Temporary

How does one rekindle one’s resolve when faced with bleak circumstances?

It’s been quite some time since I’ve given an autobiographical entry. I felt compelled to write about my most recent injury as I am certain some will be able to relate to the setbacks one encounters throughout one’s quest from self-improvement.

Allow me to set the stage with some relevant background material. I’m an obese man who has made some progress towards a healthier life. I consume more vegetables and exercise more frequently than any time in my first 29 years of life. I’ve even lost some weight (47 pounds) that I’ve been able to keep off. I still have another 147 to go. Over the summer, I had a minor hiccup in the form of acute bursitis. However, I’ve been injured numerous times before, and I’ve certainly not seen my final one.

But this latest trauma was different.

During a brief snowstorm yesterday, I slipped just a few meters from my car. My right leg slipped out from under me with a loud popping sound at the knee before I crumpled to the ground in extreme agony. On my hands and knees in the fresh snow, I screamed. My mind raced frantically, replaying the painful event, contemplating my injury, and, to my dread, what this injury meant for my goals. As each pulse of pain rushed from knee to brain, all I could think about was how I would fail myself. I wouldn’t accomplish my goals. I wouldn’t be able to continue. I had already failed, here in the snow. These startling realizations filled me with paralyzing terror.

In retrospect, I don’t remember how long I remained on the ground. Fortunately, a public safety officer had seen my fall and drove to ascertain my condition. It was his voice that ripped me away from my toxic stupor.

“Are you alright? Are you hurt? I can help you!” I heard the crunch of his boots approach as I finally lifted my head for the first time since my fall.

“I’m okay,” I uttered in half-truth. My pain had subsided long enough for me to comprehend the world once again. I slowly stood, gauging how much weight my knee could bear. It held up, but it trembled. Assured that I was well enough to make it to my car, the public safety officer departed.

It is certainly an inauspicious interlude in my long journey towards a healthier life. But I have come to understand that all setbacks are temporary, as my use of the word ‘interlude’ would suggest. Rather than an impediment to progress, my injury has afforded me time in which to reflect on my goals for a healthier life. I can plan meals and workout regimens without an agitated urgency. We easily become so inundated with work, school, familial responsibilities, friends, and myriad other activities we contrive for ourselves that we seldom take a few moments to slow down and think deeply about anything. I am guilty of this; save for today, I cannot recall the last time when I had nothing planned.

It has permitted me time to ruminate on my toxic stupor. It reminds me of something Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, an adage I am certain is familiar to us all:

But the worst enemy you can meet will always be yourself; you lie in wait for yourself in caverns and forests.

I am my own worst enemy. It could not be clearer to me now. I spend (and have spent) an unhealthy and considerable amount of time criticizing myself, my intentions, my physical appearance, and my actions. But as I’ve stated above, I’ve had time to think. I am the sole victim of my poisonous thoughts, the thoughts I use to pounce upon myself at every opportunity, the result of which has been anxiety, anger, and depression. My focus was not where it should have been. I would have been better served if I thought about my generous friends and family that have reached out to me with well-wishes, the fantastic support system that has seen me through my darkest days. It would have been better served if I concentrated on what I have accomplished so far and on the body’s capacity for regeneration.

It would have been easy to attribute my lack of focus to stupidity or foolishness. How could I have been so stupid to think that way? But this manner of thinking has been my true impediment to progress. I can’t promise that I won’t be tempted to attack myself, but I will (as we all should) attempt to build a strong bulwark—grounded in familial love, friendship, kindness to myself, and dignity—to guard against pernicious thoughts. I have to remind myself that I’m not that bad.

My knee will heal, restoring my ability to ambulate and, more importantly, exercise. I will resume my workouts. I will continue towards my goal. More importantly, I have not failed myself, nor shall I.

Post-Summer Lamentations

Summertime Sadness

Is it too early speak about Christmas?

I’m sure that opening line will deter readers from the contents of this post. It is, after all, only the beginning of October and I reckon that it’s much too early to wreath ourselves in Christmas lights and talks about snowfall. It may also be too soon to think on the banal tradition of preposterous consumer purchases with all its concomitant debts and stresses.

Nah, we shan’t speak about Christmas. I wish to know where my summer went.

Don’t get me wrong… I love cold weather. My car windows are always open no matter the temperature. This is especially true in the winter. I generate quite a few BTUs and require substantial ventilation and cooling to avoid overheating (and rage). Many have commented on how little protective gear I wear during the colder months and seem to avoid illness.

I also enjoy snow. The sight of crystalline fields and the sweet sound of crunching underfoot is the stuff of dreams. My very own winter wonderland.

But…

Where did the season go? Summer was actually fun this year.

I went for refreshing walks and enjoyable dates at the beach. I drank and danced with friends, dined with loved ones, explored new cuisines, purchased new books, and just enjoyed all the merriment summer had to offer. I even went to the gym more frequently; my injured knee did nothing to slow me down.

I even made some new friends, adding a few more numbers to my contact list. Who knew one could make friends after almost three decades of life? Unfortunately, a few friends have made themselves scarce and difficult to spend time with. The summer was nonetheless wonderful.

I love the cold weather, but… Fuck Christmas. Give me back my summer.

 

Reflections on the Subtitle of My Blog

I am amazed at how far I’ve come with this blog.

No, I truly am amazed.

The journey may not be obvious to the reader now, especially when one considers that I haven’t written that many blog posts, but it has proven to be a journey of personal growth. I’ve only started to get my bearings on this whole blogging business. Better late than never, isn’t that the old feel-good bromide? Two years ago, I wasn’t sure what I wanted this blog to be. A journal. A rant outlet. A platform for intelligent discourse.

My Gravatar profile no longer reads:

I am curious about what people (including myself) are willing to accept; what are we willing to put up with? What are we willing to accept about ourselves and about others? Should we accept that which is given to us or should we strive for something better?

My new About Me better encompasses who I am and what I wish this blog to be. It changed because it was more about the blog itself rather than about me. Obvious though that may seem, it signifies my continual transformation, my quest to discover who I wish to be and what I wish to do. I still aim to tickle a brain and to combat fear in all its guises.

My contrarian spirit will guide me as I write more about public health topics and challenge the verdicts brought down on us by public health officials. I will strive to elucidate convoluted scientific topics and bring to light some underappreciated issues. At other times, I’ll be silly by posting rubber ducks and my lamentations. And still, at others, I shall post random streams of consciousness, poems, and short stories. The blog will be my creative outlet as well as my way of disseminating vital information.

I don’t know where this blog will go, nor who I shall be in future reflections. I shall just aim to be me, I suppose.

My Obsession With Books

The best kind of addiction

Whosoever gifted me my first book, the humble seed from which my deep love and adoration for reading (and writing, for that matter) germinated, nowhere near enough expressions of gratitude could ever be bestowed upon thee.

For me, I enjoy the whole experience. It is pure ecstasy.

It begins with warm reminiscences. I recall my first books, greedily gobbled up by my young mind. The immovable hardcovers that housed crisp pages of imaginative delights, feeding each of my neurons. Every word and every picture nourished me. Changed me.

The weight of each book varies. Each cover has a different texture and a different thickness. Hardcovers, with their protective carapace, can have a raised texture with small patches of smooth lettering. Paperbacks, with their glossy and pliant coverings, are often smooth with few imperfections. No two books truly feel that same. And no electronic substitute could ever hope to replace such a wondrous tactile experience.

O, and the smell. I have smelled and always will smell each book I encounter. Age and the process by which the paper is manufactured plays a critical role here. In those tantalizing moments where my lungs draw breath and my nostrils analyze each passing molecule, bliss overtakes me. Older books typically appeal to me more than those freshly pressed. Nevertheless, I never deny myself the olfactory pleasure. And neither should anyone.

My hunger for books is insatiable. I cannot get enough of them. My idea of an enjoyable Saturday is one spent sifting through library book sales for literary gems. Being transported to new worlds and being exposed to new words will only cultivate the mind and enrich one’s life. I love books. Therefore, to me, bibliocide is blasphemy, cruel and unpardonable. Akin to the murder of kith and kin. And the barbarous act should be met with fierce execration and scorn.

I love books. All shapes. All sizes. All fonts. All smells.

On the 80-Hour Work Week

“What?! Eighty hours a week?!”

“Yup,” I calmly replied.

“You’re insane. I can’t believe you do that.”

“It’s actually not that bad once you get used to it.”

“When do you sleep?”

“Ideally… five hours. I basically have a six-hour window after my second job to attend to the quotidian tasks. Though, I seldom achieve the ideal.”

“You’re crazy, Ephraim.”

“Among other things, yes,” I chortled.

 

It is fortuitous that today happens to be the twentieth anniversary of Pokémon. I remember choosing my first Pokémon, Bulbasaur, and embarking on a journey that would indelibly change my life. A world of strange beasts, new landscapes, and rare candy, I aspired towards the goal all Pokémon trainers hope: to be the very best. Perhaps a little trite—and a bit too grandiose even for a trainer of these fantastic pocket monsters. However, one hundred  fifty-four days ago, I was officially hired by my second job as a full-time employee. And what a journey that has been.

Continue reading “On the 80-Hour Work Week”

In a State of Tranquility

Save for a photograph, I am unable to recall—even with feigned clarity—my first experience on the water. It must have been when I was approximately five or six years of age. The only photograph I possess of that day is mounted on the wall near my bedroom door. We (my mother, brother, and I; my father presumably the photographer) may have been boarding a ferry. I’ll have to inquire further about this event and perhaps I’ll report my findings. (And who knows, I might feel inclined to include the photograph, too.)

Some weeks ago, I found myself on a boat trip for the commemoration of a man’s life. Despite the lugubrious occasion, the mirth and conviviality that often axiomatically follow during heartfelt reminiscences was welcomed and encouraged. As a primate mammal, I was surprised to find myself relaxed at sea. I beheld almost nothing but water. Tiny ships and a faded shore could be glimpsed on the horizon, but nothing more. Water surrounded me on all sides. The rhythmic splashing of the waves against the hull provided the perfect background noise to help me plunge into deep reverie. Loftily drifting through mind-forged hallucinations, I found a kind of serenity. By serenity, I mean to say that, momentarily, I had forgotten my terrestrial responsibilities like my job, grad school applications, undergrad school loans—debt in general.

Continue reading “In a State of Tranquility”

A 2 a.m. Gym Session

It is definitely worth asking: what motivates me?

I tend to shy away from the autobiographical when it comes to my blog. However, I am slowly learning that the two are inextricably linked. If I am to write successfully about acceptance then I must abandon the goal of writing objectively, as it were. In other words, I am my writing and my writing is I. 

I implore the reader the ask themselves the question I posed at the beginning of this post. Motivation often comes from unexpected places. Perhaps one is motivated by vanity, to acquire the body type or the excessive wealth one wishes and the means to flaunt it shamelessly. Fear is also a powerful motivator; disease, war, and death are but a few under this category. 

My profile pictures do little to inform the reader of my height or weight. I am not of a desirable weight, to put it mildly. Harshly put, I am contemptibly porcine and would do well to change that fact, at least some would say. Admittedly, I am not entirely convinced that overweight or obese individuals are unhealthier relative to their thinner counterparts; I have read both sides of the arguement extensively and it’s difficult to come to an absolute conclusion. But that’s not a conversation we shall have at this moment. I am more decided on the psychological effects of excess weight. I am sure the reader will be familiar with the opprobrium associated with overweight and obese individuals. To be overweight is to invite scathing criticism and ridicule by peers, friends, and family. Every morsel of food is over-examined and the overweight consumer can expect to see eyes roll, heads shake, or fingers wag when the viewer disagrees with a food choice. And this ought to be a scandal. It is such an unaccepting outlook against the heavy (fat-shaming as it is often referred to) that ought to be confronted and rejected. This leads me to the source of my motivation

I am motivated by hatred. 

I have not been able to accept my own physical appearance, perhaps a deficiency which renders me poorly qualified to comment on the acceptability of things. I began my weight loss journey because I was completely unhappy with my physical appearance. In fact, I began my “lifestyle” change because of the feelings of disgust elicited from mere glances in a mirror. The worse thing about being consciously aware of all of my feelings is that I realize how psychologically unhealthy such an outlook of myself truly is. Nevertheless, I still abstain from fast food, eat more vegetables, control my portions, and exercise as often as possible, even at 2 a.m.

So I end in a similar place where I began. Important questions must be asked and the answers must be honest, no matter how painful they may be; it often turns out that the questions are the most difficult to formulate and the most painful. Where does one’s motivation come from? And once the source is apprehended, is it healthy to be the basis of one’s motivation?