My Chosen Path

Destroying that which impedes the way

I’m giving the reader another biographical entry into the happenings of my life. Consider this an extension of my 2 a.m. gym session., with more intimate reflections and disclosures from the author.

Since my late-night gym session, I’ve encountered death in its various guises and succumbed to quasi-debilitating injuries, the vicissitudes of life that remind one how tenuous it all really is. Yet, I have survived and thankfully recovered. And I often ask myself whether I can still be motivated to improve my health and wellbeing. As I have said, motivation can be derived from rather unlikely places; in the aforementioned post, it was hatred.

Motivation can come in the form of inducements. Sometimes, it comes in the form of supportive gestures. I have also been moved to action by speeches given by people I admire, and by music lyrics that resonated with something deep inside. More recently, I require fierce pushes from a friend—to whom I am eternally indebted—to help me control my negligent eating habits and to have something resembling a consistent workout schedule. Alas, this lack of endogenous drive for self-betterment has inexorably had some startling health implications. Which leads me to the final motivator—or impetus to immediate action—I wish to talk about, the one that comes into sharp relief when in close proximity to oblivion.

My primary care physician has assured me that my intemperate attitude towards food and drink have threatened to undermine several organ systems, namely my kidneys and liver.

I undoubtedly lack some internal self-disciplinary mechanism that keeps normal individuals consistent and focused on reaching their goals. Perhaps I’m missing the requisite allele for proper portion control or my brain chemistry doesn’t permit prolonged commitments to self-improvement. (I tend to be highly motivated in three-week bursts, imposing strict dietary constraints on myself and adhering to an even more rigid gym attendance.) Maybe these are just more excuses, attempts to sidestep accepting full responsibility for my actions (or inactions). Until quite recently, I found myself coming up with all the predictable and stale responses to avoid working too hard, to avoid sweating too much, to avoid going too far out of my comfort zone. That shit requires energy… and fortitude and resilience and determination. Do I have any of those things?

As a result, I truly don’t know how far I can physically push myself before my meat carapace yields. I don’t know my true potential. After my doctor broke the news to me, entreating me to abandon my bacchanalian lifestyle before I reached the point of no return, I lapsed into a dreadful session of self-sabotaging thoughts. We all slip deep into the recesses of our consciousnesses to debate and fight ourselves and lament certain things we regret doing. Some of my thoughts are merciless salvos whose only victim is I; that’s how it was when I departed the doctor’s office. I focused on the imminent deterioration of my organs, the hardships I would have to endure, the complacency—and, frankly, the laziness—that had precipitated these circumstances.

And then I stopped.

My thoughts were betraying me, proceeding as though I had been defeated. The termites of self-destruction had dined long and well on my self-esteem. I was focusing on all the wrong things. During my most recent three-week burst (it was admittedly longer), my knee had sufficiently healed to make cardiovascular exercise a viable option. I have, at the behest of my friend, increased my walking speed and improved my times, noteworthy and tangible progress. (Isn’t that what we all want?) I even received an unsolicited compliment from a coworker who had noticed I was less voluminous. Some of my work had started to pay off!

More importantly, I realized my mind, despite its willingness to periodically drag me through cerebral hell, had developed a defense mechanism for pernicious trains of thought. Don’t worry, brain. Allow me to assist:

Fuck those self-sabotaging thoughts! And… those termites, too! 

I’m neither infirm nor in extremis (nor in close proximity to oblivion for that matter). I can reverse the abuse and damage done to my body. When I set out on the journey to improve my life, I acknowledged that setbacks were temporary. But I must be willing to accept the possibility of future injuries, of grueling workouts with overwhelming perspiration and excruciating diaphragmatic spasms as I gasp for air. I must visualize my goals and turn my words (and thoughts) into unstoppable determination. I have to do it, as I have been, for moi-même, to become the architect of my own fate. I’ve equipped myself with knowledge and I’ve approached myself—and the flaws requiring remediation—honestly. Now, more than ever, it’s time to act.

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”