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.