Back Out There

As of today, I’ve gone for three small runs.

It’s about one exact year since the surgery on my right knee, done to repair torn cartilage after taking a wrong left turn.

In the last year, I’ve put on over 45 pounds, and subsequently lost about 30 of that through diet, but still find myself pudgy and soft around the edges – and not the man that Raymond met three years ago.  I have such a journey ahead of me to regain a shape and form that suits me, but, of course, it’s important for me to stop and reflect about the things I’m discovering and learning about myself along the way.

First, there’s the weird anxiety that floods my circulatory system every time I start to head out the door to run.  I sip on a mug of coffee, or chug it, and spend a great deal of time psyching myself up to put on my running gear.  I listen to EDM, at volume, and pace around in some sort of weird dancing swagger as I let the beats and rhythm build inside me.  What I’m doing, essentially, is trying to build up the courage to get out there.  What could I possibly be afraid of, though?

Injury, for one, is a thing – I’ve been there, done that, and it sucked a lot.  It sent me into a pretty steep depression last year at this time as I was prepping for surgery on my knee, and I don’t want to go back to that headspace again.  Ever.  I know, I know…we are a biological creature and aging means breaking down and facing injury on a daily basis.  Still.

Then, there’s the idea of me in running gear.  To be honest, I look foolish.  Lycra, day-glo attire, hell, even the sneakers themselves – all of these things look really weird on my plump and curvy body.  I’m no Usain Bolt.  I’m not lithe, or muscular, or lanky, or even attractively shapely in anything other than baggy jeans and loose tee shirts.  But, running in jeans would look even more stupid, so here I am.  Dressed like a fool.  I know this is super-duper basic of me to be even commenting on, let alone admitting to, but I hate, hate, *hate* wearing clothing that makes me stand out in some fashion.  This shit? This gear?  Yeah, no.  Thankfully, most of it’s a light grey color, which means I’ll blend into the fog and drear that is Oregon’s signature weather pattern.  And that day-glo shirt goes well under the grey hoodie, with only a few bits of it showing.

Beyond looking stupid and not wanting to rip a muscle, what else is this fear coming from?

Well, if I’m being perfectly honest, it’s all related to my past experience with weight and body and eating.  I’m still, and will forever be, a recovering anorexic/bulimic.  For over two years, I spent a great deal of energy and effort to expunge my body of everything and anything, exerting exquisite control over my daily caloric intake like it was my reason to even live.  Exerting that kind of control over my body, my physicality, has been my default go-to response whenever I’m feeling like the world I inhabit and everything around me has gone off the rails.  I know how far I am capable  of pushing myself in order to feel like I’m in control.  That, right there – the levels of mania, the willpower, the stubbornness, the monster within me that I’ve turned loose on myself a number of times – that’s the thing that arrests me whenever I lace up my sneakers.  I am afraid of the level of harm I am capable of doing to myself in order to feel like I’m in control of something.

Then, there is the feedback loop that one gets when they get into shape.  People do notice.  Interactions with others become different.  Every single time I’ve dropped a lot of weight, there’s the inevitable compliments that come in from various people I interact with.  Their praise and notice feeds into my ego, feeds into the desire to keep pushing myself further, and that, in and of itself, is highly addictive.  I love praise.  I mean, c’mon, who doesn’t, right?  The thing is – and especially with my history of eating disorders and body dysmorphia – every compliment I ever got when I was at my thinnest was made to a person who had put on the skin of confidence and power, when on the inside, he knew it was all one great lie.  I don’t know if that makes any sense, so let me try explaining it another way.

If you’d seen me at my thinnest – and you probably did because I kept posting photos of myself along the way as a means of stroking my own ego and getting validation for what I was doing – you’d see a guy who looked great and gave off a sexy and confident vibe that was quite attractive.  You’d have no idea, though, what kind of turmoil was going on underneath that outer self.  Under that skinnier, sexier exterior, was a man-boy who was broken.  If you had questioned me, even just a little, as to how I was doing – especially if you’d given me a gin and tonic first – it would have soon become quite apparent that my exterior was really just a facade and that things in my world were quite broken.  The first time I “got skinny” I wasn’t eating but maybe 500 calories a day, was failing in a few college classes, couldn’t pay my car payments or keep insurance on my car, and had a whole host of other issues going on up to and including an identity crisis that eventually led me out of the closet.  The next time I “got skinny” was about the time my marriage was failing and I was facing down the reality that I’d made a real cock-up of things related to my education, career, and finances.  Oh, and I was lonely as fuck.  The most recent time I again “got skinny,” I was living in the spare bedroom of an ex-boyfriend’s house, had no job and no prospects for one, had been called – to my face – fat and unattractive, had zero friends, and went day-to-day wondering just how I was going to eat enough food to curb the growl in my stomach yet not get yelled at by the ex-boyfriend for being a leech.

It doesn’t need to be like this.  It doesn’t need to feel this way.  I don’t need to be afraid of myself.  I know this.  I *know* this.  I’ve spent most of my life waging this inner battle with myself.  I’m tired of it.  I’m not in a place of desperation.  I’ve got a stable roof over my head, a job that pays quite well with pretty damn good benefits.  I have a magical and wonderful man who still enjoys curling up around me at night and holding me tight.  I have a lot of great things going for me and I feel like I’m in total control of my life.

So, really, I need to get over myself and just get out there.  I’m dressed in these horrible running clothes right now anyway.  This doesn’t need to be like every other time I’ve decided to go running.

 

(Re)Starting Over

I went out for a run today.  This is something I’ve not done since Ray got back from Europe over a month ago, and again, I’m back to square one with my body.  Honestly, and I have to always be honest here, I’m back to square one in a lot of ways.  The weight I lost while living under extreme conditions at my ex-boyfriend’s house is back.  All of it, plus some.  I’ve lost a lot of muscle tone that I once had under my flesh.  I’m not able to breathe as well as I once was.  Two miles of running today was a bit of a huge slap in the face.

What I’ve realized, though, is this: I run out of anxiety.  When my life is a nervous wreck, I run.  When I feel trapped, lost, angry, upset, worried, frantic, or all of the above, I run.  This is a habit I developed way back when, going on nearly twenty years ago, when I felt my life crashing down around me as an undergrad at college.  My grades sucked. I was depressed (and closeted).  I was broke.  I had no friends.  What I did have, though, was time, and a body I could seriously abuse.  I couldn’t control the things around me, but I could control how I looked.  The added bonus that came with running was the endorphins that I needed to forget all of my worries.  With running, I could channel all of that nervous energy into one more step, one more hill, one more mile.

While Ray was gone to Europe, I was super nervous about what he was up to, and how much of an effect the trip was going to have on our relationship.  Instead of just waiting and seeing what happened, I took to the pavement.  It’s really no surprise that I ran my fastest 10k ever while he was gone.  I was that upset and worried.  When I was living under Cal’s roof (my ex-boyfriend), the stress of not having a job, no income, and after he broke it off with me, no support system, it’s not a shock that I used to run upwards of 10 to 11 miles a few times a month (and was down thirty or so pounds from where I was when I arrived in Portland).

I need to redefine my reasons for running.  Today, as I huffed and puffed my way through a mere two miles – a test to see just how far I’d fallen – I found myself seeking a better answer to why I run.  I need to remember that the work I put in now, the way I treat my body now, will carry me forward to forty and beyond.  I need to develop this habit in a healthy way, and not as a means to escape or not face issues in my life.  I also need to untie my connection of body shape/size with self-worth and self-respect.  The truth is, I have a loving man in my life who, on more than one occasion, has expressed his concerns for my health and that he wants me around in his life for a good long time.  I want to be in his life for as long as well, and I don’t want to be broken down and unable to do the things we enjoy doing – travel, hiking, camping, etc.

Today was a test.  A check-in with myself.  I can still run under a 10-minute mile, but I certainly need to expend far more effort in doing so because I’m heavier, and weaker.  I need to combat my sedentary sit-down job.  I need to also look at my diet and take that side of my life seriously too.  I’ve got bad eating habits that need to stop – I’m a total grazer, and will eat a lot of little bits between meals.  I need to reconfigure all of this if I mean to actually make the goals I set out for myself.  I have less than two years now, and it’s gotta happen.  I will be Fit by Forty.

60th and Glisan

There is an intersection not far from my house that I pass through nearly daily.  The bus I take to work goes there. It’s on the way to downtown when I want to go out.  Mostly, it’s a chaotic little intersection with too many lanes going in too many directions that was never designed for the amount of traffic that uses it today.  One corner has a pub.  One has a coffee shop.  One has a warehouse-type building.  One has a gas station.  Each entry point into the intersection itself has a travel lane and a turning lane for either left or right, but the roads themselves are no wider than your typical two-lane road.  Add on the sidewalks, trees, mailbox, signal poles, light poles, parking signs, sandwich boards, benches, picnic tables, and assorted shrubbery, and you can see it’s got a lot going on.

Today on my run, as has become my habitual route, I hit my goal at that corner.  6.2 miles (a 10 kilometer run), ends there, and from there, I walk the remainder of the way home – about twenty-six blocks, uphill.  It’s exactly one mile from my house, so it’s a good way to step down from the intensity of the run, but continue with my fitness.

It dawned on me, today, though that that corner, that specific geographical location, has held a few memories that flash through my head each time I pass by.  When I was living with my ex, still unemployed, still flailing around trying to find my footing here in Portland, OR, I would take off running.  One of my loops was a ten-mile one, and though it was decently challenging, it wasn’t until I got to that intersection, having turned off Cesar Chavez Boulevard and headed east on Glisan to 60th, where I’d turn and run down 60th towards Mt. Tabor and the top of Hawthorne Blvd, where I’d turn and head back into downtown and finish my run by crossing the Hawthorne bridge.  It wasn’t until I hit 60th and Glisan that my head would turn off, where my footfalls would fade, and where I felt that rush of endorphins that made the rest of me seem invincible.  That corner marked a real and literal turning point on my running journey.

It also, as it turns out, is a corner that is near and dear to both Ray and I.  He lives not far from it.  A few blocks north and east is the space he shares with his roommate.  We’ve come to frequent the businesses at that intersection, and I’m a common fixture there, usually waiting for my bus to work or to home.  I am good at picking up coffee surprises from the cafe, and the lady at the breakfast shop three doors east of the intersection knows our orders by heart.

It’s strange to me how I find these places of geography to latch onto and ground me.  I’ve been doing this sort of thing ever since I could remember, though.  These little map pinpoints are important.  The give me boundaries to my kingdom.  They define my world, a bit, and when I pass through them, or remain within them, I find myself developing a sense of home and of community.  I think, with all of the moving and relocating I’ve done over the course of my life, finding a way to define a home, a space for me to both relax and improve myself, is vitally important.

I also think it’s kind of cool that I’d meet this really great guy who’s transformed my life near a corner that transformed my physical fitness time and time again (and still does to this day).

Running Over Myself

I’ve been out running every other day (minus yesterday – details to follow) since Ray took off for Iowa about two weeks ago.  This is a habit of mine that had fallen away since the first of the year for a variety of reasons.  I’d started working again.  I’d moved home.  I’d met Ray.  It’s taken some time, and some effort has been put back into it off and on, but the habit that I once had seemed to be elusive to me.  It just never felt right.  I was doing it for the wrong reasons, maybe, or I felt like I had to, rather than want to.  In any case, these past two weeks of running every other day have started to show, again, on my body.  In a constant state of flux, it’s clear to me that my body will never remain one shape or size for very long.

I started this running habit when I was nineteen and in college.  I was running away from my old self.  It was before I came to grips with the fact that I was a gay man, and I didn’t know why I was hating on myself so hard.  I ran about twenty five miles a week, doing a five-mile loop in Dover, NH (one of my favorite runs still), and found myself gaining some sort of control over how I presented myself.  It was, though, a bit of a knife-edge to be on for me, because it was also the time when I was being the worst with regards to eating.  My depression/self-loathing had turned my mind on my body, and I was using running along with caloric restriction and expulsion to pare away the old me.  Still, the running gave me a release from what was an ever-present grip of anxiety.  I managed to shave away lots and lots of my body, and in the end, though I got down to my smallest ever (155 lbs.), I learned that I could have control over my self, and that running made me feel good about things.

I picked it back up in England, where I ran my first 10k race ever.  I went from a mostly-stagnant couch potato of a new teacher, worked up and worried over everything about my job, to a person who used running to put things in perspective and to get out of my own damn way.  It was good to do with my coworker Chris, too, who inspired me to give it a go, and really shape up a bit.  Then, the running was a way of managing stress, and keeping me on an even keel.

I returned to running again, off and on, through my time with Nathaniel.  We had tried running as a couple, but the competitive streaks in us both proved to be too much.  Towards the end of things with him, though, I had turned to running as a form of escape.  I could shut out the bad and focus on my footfalls and the energy flowing through my body.  I could take a break from my constant worry and overthinking and just run.  Just put one foot in front of the other for an extended period of time.

I took up running once more when I was living in Portland, ME, after Nathaniel and I ended things.  At that point, I was feeling really rejected.  I felt like a broken man with little to no worth.  I had absolutely nothing but my health and a pair of sneakers.  It seemed that running, and the endorphins it brought me, were just what I needed to avoid the despair that seemed to be all over the rest of my life.  I was also up to my throat in school work, and running proved to be a great way for me to sort out the words I intended to put on the page.  It was a way for me to break away from the laptop and just exist with my thoughts over time.  I also learned that movement and thinking went hand in hand for me.  This was something that was never taught at Goddard, but when I mentioned this phenomenon to others of my group, many agreed with me.  Running, or even just taking a walk or a hike, seemed to clear the air, and shut off the forever-screaming critic that lived in us all.

When I relocated to Denver, it took some time to adjust to the altitude and oxygen at a mile in the sky, but I eventually returned to running once more.  There, my life was in quite a tailspin.  I was living quite fast, seeking and searching for a direction and path to follow.  I had a job, but it wasn’t fulfilling.  I had some friends, but I was almost always a wet blanket to their easy, care-free way of living.  I was too intense, too emotional, too much at times to be around.  I turned to running as a way of unburdening myself from my life and, again, just escaping into the wild for a while.  Along with hiking, the running in Denver was a soul-saver for me.  It gave me space to think and be.  It gave me release.  It gave me focus.

After moving to Portland, and having the relationship I moved here for fall apart, I once again turned to running.  I was in a desperate situation, living by my wits alone.  Running, again, proved to be the only thing I felt I could do with some sort of accuracy, and which would give me the space I needed in my head to stop chewing over things that were out of my control.  I was a long time finding work here, and living in a less-than-ideal situation in a house that was no longer my home.  I ran and ran and ran to prove to myself that I had value.  I used the tracking apps to share my progress because I needed the validation I’d get from those who followed along.  Honestly, as trite as it sounds, those little cheers in my ears were just the thing I needed to balance off the rejection and disappointment that crippled me during that time in my life.  Running saved me, again.

I’ve returned to it now, and it seems like it’s becoming another habit I can stick with.  I’m with Ray, who is an avid supporter of my health, in all ways.  He knows I’m trying to finally kick my smoking habit (yes, I’m still smoking, but it’s really, really close to being over).  He knows I’ve got these Fit by Forty plans for myself.  It was the other night – the night I ended up skipping my morning run – where this all kind of sank in and came home.  I found myself an anxious, emotional weirdo who needed some coddling and reassurance.  Any confidence I thought I had seemed to have drained away in the light of the full moon.  I had slipped into an anxious corner of my mind, and turned it on him in a way that was simply not okay.  He, of course, handled it like a champion, inviting me over to share some wine and a chat with him and his friend Steven while the night crept into early morning.  We eventually fell asleep at 3a, and I didn’t end up running that morning, but I wished I had.

Today, I made up for that skipped run.  I rolled out of bed and slipped into my sneakers once again.  After a cup and a half of coffee, I just set off.  I haven’t been tracking or sharing these recent runs, either.  I’ve stopped berating myself when I slow up to a walk – instead, I’m calling it interval training – and I’m not pushing myself for more miles, more distance, more, more, more.  Instead, I’m just running until I’m done.  Whenever and wherever that happens.  I do have a general idea of a route in my head, but when I set off this morning, that was subject to change at every corner, which proved to be just what I needed.  I caught myself in the reflection of a plate glass window, and saw something that is only evident to me when I’m out running or being active.  After straightening my slouch, standing fully erect, and taking deep, meaningful breaths, I could feel a certain power inside me.  It was a mix of adrenaline and endorphin.  It was confidence.  It is confidence.

Running, all along, has taught me so many things.  It’s offered me escape, comfort, pleasure, control, and now a sense of worth.  I feel good about putting my body through these paces, and I feel like instead of running away from something, I’m running towards something better.  Running has been there for me when I’ve needed it, and I’ve finally started paying attention to my body when it’s craving a bit of pavement and movement.  When I feel the anxiety growing, when I feel the darkness, when I am not happy about the skin I’m in, that’s when I need to get out and get moving the most.  I need to just get over myself and get out there.  I am a strong, capable, sexy, confident man, when I allow myself to be, and can put down the anxiety and fear for a while.  Running has taught me this.

A New Approach to My Day

Today, I have woken up early, donned my running gear, and am sipping coffee and eating some frosted mini wheats before I go.  This, for me, is a first.  Not the running, and certainly not the coffee or breakfast.  No, today, I woke up and took an active stance to face down a day that’s sure to be a challenge.

It’s not going to be an awful day.  It’s all relative.  I have a training class at 10:30 this morning, and will be working until 9p tonight, which makes for a rather long day at work.  I will make some extra cash, which is good.  I will get to drive a nice newer bus, which will be good.  I will be able to spend the extra cash I’m making on improving the camping trip that Ray and I will be taking in a few weeks.

Still, today, as I sit here and sip my coffee, I have not done this kind of approach to a day that is sure to be long and wearisome.  I typically would stay in bed until I need to go, and perhaps whine about it all day long, feeling heavy and gross and defeated, trudging through it all just to get to the end of the line and get my butt home.  That’s no way to spend the day.  It’s certainly no way to start the day – already feeling defeated.  No, today will start differently.  It already has.

My last run – on Tuesday of this week – saw me go by a glassy store front and catch myself in the reflection.  There, bouncing up and down, was my body, my belly specifically.  My calves were flexing, legs pumping, chest moving up and down.  I saw a very fluid and squishy exterior being supported by a strong, taut body beneath the surface.  I saw something in myself in those fleeting seconds of reflection that gave me the drive to push harder during the rest of my run.

Beneath the cellulite, the layers of fat that rest on my body, lies a machine.  A powerful (and growing more powerful each time I flex) machine that has capabilities I’m only just beginning to realize.  When I started to see development at the gym earlier this year – broader shoulders, bigger arms, larger and more robust thighs and glutes – I found myself seeing something I’d never actually seen before.  It was a bigger, stronger, more powerful me that was just below the surface, expanding outward from my core.  Of course, because I had put the brakes on my running and had begun to eat food again, all of that growth simply pushed the fat on my body outward and gave me a larger size all over, rather than more muscular definition.  Still, I knew what was going on under the fat.  I’ve never had muscles before.  Not like that.

What I need to do, for now, while the weather is good, is continue with the cardio, the running, and the commitment I made to myself to train like I was going to run a marathon by my 37th birthday.  I’m a little behind on my running schedule, but that’s okay.  I have time.  In the process of all this running, I hope to see the fat that I’ve been packing on since the first of the year start to shift again and slim down.  Once I’m back in my running shape, then I hope to hit the gym again, and find a way to incorporate workouts that will tone up my muscles again while the running and other cardio will help me keep burning away the exterior fat that rests on my body.

This is a process of figuring out how food, exercise, and mental state all affect how I see and present myself to the world.  It’s convoluted, chaotic, frustrating, and exhilarating.  I haven’t figured it all out, but I’m getting there, on my own, and under my own steam.  I will have the body to match the mental image I have of myself.  I will be the strong, sound, proud presence in the rooms I enter.  I will be the man I have always wanted to be.  I’m growing up and shaping myself accordingly every day.  I just need to remain focused.

Changing

The past two weeks have been dedicated to changing.

One of the biggest challenges and things I need to address in my life is my smoking habit.  I have tried time and again to quit these things, and it’s been something that has always been a thorn in my side – well, at least since I was fifteen years old.  I’ve already waxed on and on in the past about the reasons why I need to quit.  I know them all, and I’ve shared them here many, many times.  The truth remains, though, I still have an addiction to nicotine, and it’s power over me has to stop.

Since the first of May, I’ve cut way, way back on the amount of smoking I do.  I started, full guns blazing, by quitting cold turkey.  This was not only a matter of desire – I woke up two Mondays ago and said to myself that enough was enough – it’s become a health necessity. Heaviness in my chest, along with the lingering smell and feeling like a pariah have driven me to this point.  

I made it about three days before I broke down and asked a coworker for a smoke, which he happily gave me.  In the time since then, though, I’ve had roughly half a pack of cigarettes over the course of two weeks, which is down from my typical ten a day.  I’ve also been dealing with the physical side effects of coming off nicotine – the cravings are only the start.  Tension, constipation, headaches are also factors.  What I wasn’t expecting, and what I didn’t realize, was the emotional side effects of this addiction also are huge factors in quitting.  Since I’ve cut way, way back (to the point where I’m really on the verge of being done all together), I’ve been stuck in an emotional rut.  I find myself defensive, depressed, and irritable to be around as well.  Ray, bless him, has born the brunt of some of this, but I’ve done all I can to keep it contained.  I need this habit over with, and I need it over with now.  It’s coming.

The other thing that’s coming, as part of my breaking of this habit, is the decision I made two days ago about my fitness plan and exercise regime.  I’ve been going to the gym twice a week now for about four months.  In that time, I’ve experienced a weight gain that puts me back where I was when I first arrived in Portland – about thirty pounds more than I should be – some of it in muscle, I know, but also a good deal of pudge over that muscle.  Living here in this house has afforded me a diet that allows for excess, and as a shift from where I was prior to moving here, with a very limited availability of food simply because I didn’t have a job and couldn’t afford to purchase much, my waist line has expanded slightly, and my clothes no longer fit as I would like them to.  I know that my efforts at the gym have been good.  I have arms and legs unlike I’ve ever had before.  I have a chest that, beneath the softness, is more defined and in better shape than ever.  Still, I haven’t quite gotten to where I want to be, and I think I’ve found a way to change all of that.

I haven’t really gone running since moving here to this new house. I’ve not had the desire, energy, or drive to run like I did late last year. When I was running, it was for very different reasons than I originally thought.  It was a coping mechanism.  It was how I squelched anxiety.  It was how I kept control of my life when everything else seemed to be collapsing around me.  The stress of being jobless, and stuck in a space that was no longer my home, and the tattered edges of a failed relationship all around me, running away from it all for just an hour or so every other day kept the darkness in check.

Now, though, that darkness has gone.  I’m in a new home.  I have a decent job.  I have managed to meet one of the most extraordinary men I’ve ever had the chance to fall in love with and truly begin the process of sharing my life with. I have so much going for me since the turn of the year, but as is the way I approach life, I’m not quite satisfied.  I still hunger for a bit more growth and development.  For me, this appetite for new experiences and new challenges is at the heart of what life is all about.  I never want to stop learning and doing and growing as a person, which is why I’ve decided to take up something I’ve always denounced and thought impossible in my life.

Starting on Monday, I’m beginning a new series of runs that will eventually lead up to my completion of a marathon.  This is going to be a monumental chore for me, with lots of effort, lots of dedication, and lots of moments of despair and frustration.  Still, every time I’ve seen friends and contacts take up this challenge for themselves, or whenever I see a pack of people out there running for a cause, I have always felt like I needed to join them.  I do love running.  I like the way it clears my mind.  I like the way it shapes my body.  I like the feeling of motion and movement to offset the times when all I do is sit and remain still.

Running will also help me get over the hump with regards to my smoking habit.  It will also, as I’ve learned in the past, help me deal with confidence and self-esteem issues.  It will help me cope with the tension, depression, and physical side effects of cutting nicotine out of my life.  It will inform my writing.  It will challenge me to love myself a little bit more than I currently do.  Most importantly, if I can actually achieve this goal, it will be something of a life-time achievement for me, especially since I have always been the fat kid on the end of the roster, the one never chosen, the one who always came in physically last.  Yes, I am trying to prove to myself what I’m capable of.  Yes, I’m trying to shatter this old, horrible image I have of myself.  Yes, each footfall will be one more sword-swipe at the demons that have chased me for far too long.

Thomas Palmer: writer, teacher, marathon runner.

 

Running Again

It felt good to run today. I’ve taken some time off from it because of a few reasons, namely because I was running before for different reasons.

Today was just an experiment in movement again.

I am heavier. It requires more effort to move than it did just four months ago. Muscles, fat, a sit-down job – all of these things have added more gravity to my frame. Still, I know I can get back to where I was before, if I want to. It will take time, and effort, but I can do it. I’m not meant to sit still for long.

The epiphany I had out on the pavement today, one I shared with Ray, is that I may never be one of the hot model-men that are all over Tumblr. I may never appear in a photo shoot, or turn quite a few heads when I go out. Fact is, I don’t need to.

The person who matters most to me – myself – is more comfortable in his skin than he has ever been. It’s that confidence and self-assurance that gives me an x-factor. Ray sees it, and fell in love with it. I see and feel it too, and I too have a bit more love of myself because of it.

I have a lot more changes to undergo still. Giving up my unhealthy addictions is a start. My diet needs an overhaul too, and starting next month, it will happen.