One More Month

Well, it’s coming.That big-ass birthday I’ve been moaning about for the last five years. As of October 1, 2017, I will be a 40-year-old man.

It seem really, really appropriate to do a post in this section of my website, Fit by Forty, because so many of the things I’ve set out to accomplish by the age of two score have changed, adapted, and been altered from where I started out.

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A Lifting Fog

For months now, probably since my knee blew out in early February, I’ve been living in a state of pause.  I stopped going to the gym.  I stopped chasing health goals all around, and found myself looking at my list of things to do and achieve, and simply turning away from them.  Each one of these goals felt insurmountable, unattainable, and requiring way too much focus and effort than I could muster.  I don’t think I realized just how depressed and sanguine I’d become as I spent the month on the couch nursing my injury.

Summer has come, and I’m not any closer to reaching those goals – fitness, fiscal liberation, and the like – but something has snapped and broken inside me, for the better.

Earlier this week, I got news from a dear friend about a situation that has set him back on his heels in terms of his own life-trajectory.  He’s facing a steep challenge over the next few months, possibly years, and while he reached out to me for support, I felt myself reverting into Oldest Sibling mode, planning and scheming and laying out a framework for how to help him move forward.  I listened with intent to how he was feeling, and will continue to do so as he moves forward, but what this has done for me personally has been the gear-shift I’ve been needing.

I found myself able to sit down and go further with a chapter and section of my memoir that has been a huge challenge to face and come to terms with.  I found a pathway forward in my own health journey that, for the first time in a long time, felt deeply close to my heart and something that I could claim as my own, rather than buying into someone else’s system, and ending up poorer and just as out of shape as when I started.  I am seeing myself for what I am, right now, but I’m also once again visualizing where I want to be in a year’s time, when I turn 40, and what kinds of things I can do on a daily and consistent basis that will bring me to that place.  That lamp in the dark, the thing that I am making my way towards, became clear, as though a thick bank of fog finally lifted and blew away.

This has been a good week.

It’s good to be back in my skin again, rather than feeling like an object in orbit around this lump of flesh that seemed to exist without purpose.  I’m looking forward to see where this new-found drive takes me.  Right now, though, I’m going to pour myself another cup of coffee and enjoy a quiet Thursday morning.

It should be noted that through all of this, Ray has been a steady rock.  I’ve been able to lament to him about my stasis, and time after time, he reminded me that it’s okay to pause, to stop obsessing, to stop beating myself up for needing a break in all that I’ve got going on.  We took off on a camping trip to Walla Walla, Washington, and even then, while I was dealing with a cold and full of snot and ick, he remained constant and life-affirming, all while I was feeling so dejected for seemingly ruining our trip.  I am reminded daily just how lucky I am to have him in my life.


Spring Renewal

Spring is definitely in the air out here in Portland, Oregon, and as is usual, this time of year has spurned a lot of changes and transformations outside and inside.  While I’m still trying to keep up with everything in my own head, I thought it would be a good idea to write some of it down.

I’ve had most of the month of February off, but not intentionally.

On February 1, I decided to lace up and go out for a run.  I’d been feeling a bit panicked, a bit anxious about the fact that the scale hadn’t shifted for me in a while, even while my measurements were going in the right direction otherwise – muscle growth, reduced waistline happening (slowly – but happening).  The sun was bright and the air was cool and damp.  It was a perfect day for a jog.  I set off with a basic idea of where I wanted to go, but because I wasn’t 100% sure I’d make a loop or just a straight line to a distant point and need the bus or light rail home, I stuck my bus pass in my pocket alongside my phone.

I stretched for a bit, and then took intentional time warming up with a little bit of brisk walking.  I wanted to activate all of the things needed inside.  My feet felt good, and as my breathing went up, I could feel that drive to move faster building, as it always does.  Soon I was doing a slow lope, kind of a fat-man-running movement that lives just above a walk, but not a full on jog, and about two or three steps beneath a full-out dash.  I am, after all, just getting back into the saddle of putting pavement under my feet again, and I don’t want to hurt myself.

I made a right turn, and proceeded up a street I hadn’t gone running on before.  I love taking side streets that I’ve not been on because it keeps my interest piqued – and keeps me from focusing too much on the pace of my breath or my body’s natural tendency to want to stop.  Up the street, there was a piece of sidewalk that was closed off to foot traffic – a very, very common occurrence here with all of the new construction and rebuilding that our housing market is fueling.  So, like I good pedestrian, I crossed the street, ran up the half of a block or so past the construction, and then went back to my side of the road.  As I hopped back up onto the curb and sidewalk, I also pivoted left.  In that moment, in that act of taking a step and then attempting to turn on the ball of my foot – something we all do unconsciously when we walk – a huge pop sounded off in my knee, followed by a flush of raw agony that spread down to my foot and up my thigh.  Immediately, I stopped, almost falling over.  “Shit!” was my first word.

I could bear a little weight on it, but something was really, really wrong.  I started to panic and called Ray, but I knew he was busy picking up our roommate from the airport.  I remembered my bus pass, thankful that I’d stuck that little jewel in my pocket, and set off towards the nearest bus stop.  About a half-hour later, I was home, on the couch, leg elevated along with my heartbeat and anxiety level, so damn mad at myself.

That started off the medical journey that culminated in yesterday’s arthroscopic surgery to remove a piece of torn cartilage in my knee – a corner of the medial meniscus – three weeks after the injury occurred.

In the down-time between the injury and the surgery, I’ve been plagued with frustration, a heightened sense of anxiety, shame, and rage all surrounding the way my body looks and how I still feel like such a blob in my own skin.  I had more than one moment with Ray, crying, admitting how mad I was at myself for pushing myself too hard because I’m so angry at getting so out of shape since he’s come into my life.  I’m mad at getting old.  I’m mad at my wrinkles, baldness, and waistline.  He, being the angel that he is, has more than once reminded me that he’s not with me just because of my looks, and while he still finds me exceedingly handsome, he knows that beneath this messy outside, I am a decent man within.  Him telling me this directly, and holding me close, really has done a number to soothe my nerves.

His support has also led me to using my downtime pretty effectively with regards to my writing.  I have been able to work my way through a redraft of about four chapters of my memoir.  This time around, it’s really up-close-and-personal, first-person, blow-by-blow.  My writing groupies have praised this massive turn around in my words, and I’ve even sent off a couple of query letters to possible agents regarding their interest in my story.  I haven’t felt this confident about any of my writing in a long time.  The words now are coming from an authentic, unhidden place.  I roar onto the page in very detailed and intimate flashbacks coming straight from my point of view.  The act of putting the reader right there, in that moment of time, has such power, and is *exactly* what I wanted to produce for a story.

Now that the surgery on my knee is over and I’m feeling like I can get back on both feet again, things will resume their normal course of events.  At least for a little while.

Ray and I have been also discussing the shifts in his life, especially with regards to his future job plans, and what that means in terms of our living situation.  Later this year, in July, he’s going to be taking his Level 1 Master Sommelier exam up in Victoria, BC.  It’s the kind of test and certification that will bump up his resume, especially as he also starts to transition away from table-side serving of food and wine as he currently does, and moves into tasting room/vineyard work out in wine country.  The Oregon wine industry is growing in leaps and bounds these days, and will continue to do so as the climate shifts and wine production done in central and southern California has to divest of cooler-climate grapes – grapes that will do extraordinarily well up here.  Ray wants in on it, as it is a huge passion of his.  He’s also working to incorporate his skills in design, with an eye to work on label and marketing material for vineyards throughout the Willamette region and around the Pacific Northwest.

All of this, for us as a couple, translates into moments of transition, possibly out of Portland, Oregon.  We both have dreamed about having our little spot somewhere, where we could raise a garden, chickens, and have a dog or two.  Right now, in the current state of Portland proper, those kinds of things are way out of our reach.  The average home price here is up in the $300k range, and rentals on single-bedroom spots (most without any outdoor access or pet options) is over $1500 for anything comfortable.   Given our love for the outdoors and access to the stars and trails and mountains and ocean, we are keeping our eyes out for spaces that would accommodate us both better without being too much of a burden on our wallets.  This year will see us both focusing on getting our credit card debts down, getting our finances in further order, and figuring out our next move forward, as a couple.

The fact that I have him in my life, to share in his exploration of self, watching as he comes into his adult form, is amazing.  I saw great potential in him when we first met, but now, two years in, it’s clear that we’re sliding into a far greater, stronger place as a couple.  His friends have started ribbing him about marriage, and it’s adorable to see him squirm about it a little.  I’m not driving that conversation at all, and have told him it’s all in his court – I’ve been there and done that and I know that if we do get married, it’s going to be unlike anything either of us has ever experience.  He’s making grown-up decisions about his career, and is deliberately seeking a balance between making the money to pay the bills and having a life that brings him joy daily, where he doesn’t always feel like he’s just feeding into a machine, but taking an active role in growing and shaping in cooperation with a team of like-minded people.

So, yeah.  2016 has started with a lot of shake-down, a lot of shifting away from the old and transitioning into the new.  While I loathe that I’m older and can’t beat up on my body like I always have, I know that this month to reflect and change gears has done me a lot of good.  Ray has also had to shake off some of his own doubts and fears and is making some earnest moves towards the life he envisions for himself.  The daffodils are blooming.  The crabapple trees are too.  Spring’s renewal is a welcome thing this time around.

A Little Catch Up

I don’t even know where to begin here.  There’s so much going on these days that it seems hardly possible to keep up with it all.  It has been a bit since I posted, but really I blame my friend Kevin for this.  He was able to crank out a post over at his site, so I thought I ought to do something similar.  Thanks, Kev. 😉

I’ve been quite successful with the non-smoking efforts here.  I had a moment, though, as I transitioned down from Step 1 to Step 2 of the Nicoderm patches, that pretty much underlined in as thick of a marker as you can find why I need to be done and over all of this malarky already.  I turned into a humongous monster towards Ray for about two days, being absolutely snarky, emotional, cranky, and all the rest, while my body adjusted to the new level of nicotine the patches were delivering to me.  I woke up mad for three days straight, and no matter what I did, nothing seemed to make me feel any better.  Well, except distraction, which, thankfully, Ray was able to help me find.  I couldn’t focus on anything for too long, but I could at least let my mind calm down for a minute and let my jaw relax.

It needs to be restated here:  I will never, ever, never go back to smoking again.  This quitting shit is for the birds.  I never, ever, never want to go through this again.

Now that some time has passed, and I’m about one week into my new level of drug delivery, I’ve been able to get on with my days.  Work is work, which is neither here nor there.  We start our Winter runs in a few weeks, and for me, that means I’ll be working a fixed schedule (Fri-Sat-Sun) for the first time in a number of months.  I’ll have “regulars” again, and I’ll have to get used to the quirks and needs of a set amount of people whose schedules align with my route.  It’ll be fine, if not a little boring on some level.  What it also means, though, is that I’m guaranteed set days off for twelve weeks straight, which are Mon-Thurs each week.  I can schedule workouts, writing, trips away from home, errand completion, and all of that, without needing to consult my calendar too much.

Speaking of the calendar, we’ve got a few things coming up that are pretty exciting.  First, we are starting the new year with a trip to Arizona together.  I’m meeting his mother and step-father in Prescott, AZ, and we are also taking time to explore his home state.  He’s going to show me some of the highlights, as well as some of the places he always wanted to visit as a kid, but either didn’t, or didn’t appreciate enough in his younger days.  Tucson, Flagstaff, and Sedona are all on the list, and maybe a view of the south rim of the Grand Canyon, depending on things.

After that trip, we are also planning a little adventure back east, with plans on seeing Washington, D.C., New York City, Boston, and of course, Maine.  It’ll be my turn to show him where I’m from, what I grew up in and around, and explore the courses of my life when I was younger.  I’m not as nervous about doing this with him – I’ve done this before with other boyfriends, so I’ve had practice – but I am interested to hear his thoughts about New England specifically.  He’s never been there, and while it’s going to be a really, really cold time of year to visit, he will certainly have a better understanding of the kinds of things that shaped me.  Especially in the cold and dark of early March.  My only hope is that winter this year isn’t as awful as it was last year.  If it’s looking like another wallop of snow for the east/northeast, we will have to re-align our plans some.  Still, it’s important to show him where I’m from, especially as he and I get closer.

Creatively, I’m really, really enjoying my new writing group.  After being cyber-introduced by my good friend Ren to this cadre of other writers here in Portland, I’ve met up with them a few times now, and am actually redrafting that damn memoir again.  It’s taken on a lot more life, gotten a lot more colorful and engaging as the editing has been happening.  The feedback has been really, really good, and it feels good to be putting down words that matter again.  I also get to read their work, and critique and edit their stories, which has also kept my brain moving in the right wavelengths.  It’s amazing how much I missed the interactivity that Goddard gave me with other writers.

Life is still pretty good here in Portland, OR for me, and I am truly thankful for it all. The beard is bushy, the rain has returned, and I’m finally feeling like my life is spinning in the right direction.  I’m ready for the demands of the holidays.  I’m ready to tuck in for a nice, dark winter, sink my teeth further into more books, and enjoy breathing.

Meeting a Goal

I’ve talked about my finances a few times on here, especially recently, but I wanted to revisit this today because it finally dawned on me what has just happened in my life.

For *years* I’ve been setting a personal goal of getting my fiscal house in order.  Years.  Literally since I’ve had a job and bills, I’ve always been messy about where my money goes.  I don’t know why this was the case, or where my spend-happy-self came from, but it seems that monster, grown out of a desire to be generous to others, and to myself, with limited foresight as to the consequences of spending X dollars here, when I needed to put that currency elsewhere, has finally been caged and tamed.

I have achieved a birthday goal of mine, and right now, it’s just sinking in.  I mean, really – I did this thing I set out to do.  I wanted to reduce the anxiety that money was constantly bringing into my life, and I’ve done it.  (A few pats on my own back).

Of course, I can’t just rest on this.  Not for one second.  I want to analyze how I got here, and what parts of that I can now apply to other goals that I keep setting and failing to meet.

It seems that, while I was paying attention to the small details, the smaller bits of responsibility along the way, the grand goal was playing out before me.  Time, patience, persistence – as well as being willing to allow for setbacks and restarts (many restarts) along the way also seems to be key.

This same principle and focus can also be turned onto my other big goals – especially overall health and fitness.  I know where I want to end up by the time I turn forty years old.  I have an idea of what kinds of things I want to be able to do and have the strength and energy for at that juncture in my life.  Getting there, from where I’m sitting now, seems like an impossibility.  There are so many things to learn and discover along the way that, right now, it’s all a bit overwhelming.  What do I eat, when do I eat it; how much is too much, too little; when should I sleep/rest, and when should I push myself to the limits?  All of these things are questions I don’t have answers to right now, but while I do what feels right today and in this minute – watching my sugars and making sure that I get my ass to the gym at least three or four times a week – might just amount to something.

I do wish, though, that I could set up a long-range fitness calendar – much like I did for my budget – that will give me milestones that I should expect to achieve at various points.  Like, I knew when my first credit card would be paid off because I knew where my budget would be at that point (and that milestone is coming in about a month, which is also pretty awesome).  I don’t know, though, if I’ll be able to bench press a certain amount of weight, or be able to see a weight on the scale that is at a certain place, or be able to bring my BMI down out of the rafters by a certain moment in time.  There isn’t the same sort of permanence and black-and-whiteness about fitness and health.  It’s a continuum, which leaves a lot of grey space, which isn’t exactly the kind of exactness I want.

Maybe I need to meet with a trainer and get help wrapping my head around goals and plan-making to get there.  I know there is a lot of ever-changing science around biochemistry and the effects of exercise on the body, so I could dive head-long into that world and find some real-life applicable things that I can do for myself.  I’m not sure.

Still, right now, I am realizing that it is possible for lumpy, little ol’ me to set a goal and meet it.  Even a big one.  I never really thought this was possible.

Summertime Scheming

The night before last, as I was getting ready for bed, I got some text messages from Ray as he finished up his shift.  They were the typical things we talk about after work, but then, he asked me when I was going to get my summer schedule figured out.  That doesn’t happen until early April, but for him, the penultimate planner, he cannot wait.  He has already started scheming for our Summer 2015 camping plans, and as he told me what he intended on doing, depending on my schedule, I just sat there and grinned.  I had one of those pauses, where I just looked up from my phone and smiled, realizing just what was going on.

We’ve been together now for about a year and four months.  Last summer, it was utterly clear to me that this man, my Raymond, came into my life at just the right moment.  I had all but given up on dating anyone.  I was prepared to go it alone for a while, especially after the struggle I’d had at the end of my last relationship, feeling very alone, very destitute, and doubting myself and my abilities to the core.  Finding a job, finding a new home, and then meeting Ray – well, it all seemed like too much of a good thing all at once.  Surely, one of those three things were going to come apart at the seams, and I needed to prepare myself for that.  I needed to constantly remind myself that I am my own person, undefined by another, and that I needed to be self-sufficient.  I needed to make peace with myself, as I was going to be by myself for a long time.  Just when I’d come to a sense of being, just when I felt like my old demon were in hiding or dead, that’s when this man, Raymond, appeared in my life.  For at least six months, I was very unsure about the longevity of us.  I forced myself to remain in the moment, and present, not making too many plans and hopes for the future because, as I’d always done before – up to and including marriage – it had blown up in my face.  Rather than pin my happiness on the future-tense, I remained as solidly in the moment as I could.

Whenever I strayed too much into the planning of my future, Raymond reminded me, subtly, that he was just feeling things out with us as well, and that things could change for him, or for me, and that we needed to keep ourselves grounded.  Time, though, has been the thing that has eased this pressure on us.  Patience with him, along with patience in and for myself, has allowed us to now start making real plans for the months and weeks ahead of us.  Now, it’s him who’s making plans four and six months out.  He knows my scheduled vacations.  He knows of my love of travel.  He knows that I’m committed to him, and to us, and that I want to continue on this shared path with him.  He trusts me.

If all goes as planned, I will land a schedule at work that will allow for some quality summertime adventures. One of the options given to part-time drivers is to work three 10-hour shifts a week.  Some of those include driving Saturday, Sunday, and Monday or Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – which would afford us four days off in a row every week for twelve weeks.  This schedule would work out great for him, as well, because he does the bulk of his shifts on the weekends too.  Ultimately, if I can land a Fri-Sat-Sun work week, he wants to go camping every other week for the entirety of our summer.  Four days away, every two weeks, for twelve whole weeks.  This is definitely something I want to do.  Given our experiences last summer, I know this will be amazing.

I still have a great place to call home.  I still have a job that allows me to have a life and pay my bills.  I still have this amazing man in my life who brings such sunshine and goodness that it’s almost too much to handle.

After Hawaii

Today was the first day back from our vacation to Hawaii.

I’m still decompressing.

Ray spent last night with me in my bed, as we had both agreed that my bed out of the two we own is the most comfortable, and after over a week spent on a tired mattress on Oahu, it would be the most restorative sleeping arrangement.  Truth be told, I needed him to spend last night with me.  I needed him to be in my bed because I have grown very used to having him by my side at night.  I have grown accustomed to the contours of his body, the pulse of his heart, the inhale and exhale, the unconscious reach of his arm around my torso.  I needed all of this last night as my body resumed it’s place back in Portland, back in reality.

We had some of the most extraordinary experiences on Oahu.  From sunrises on the terrace of our hotel, to sunsets on Waikiki, to the northwest point, to the north shore waves, to the eastern bays, and western desolation, the island gave us so much to take in; too much, almost, for any person to absorb in eight short days.  We gave it our best shot, though, and with the top down on the rented Mustang, and a million billion stars sparkling overhead, swooping around corners and through fields and skirting around jagged volcanic edges, we both found something that we could embrace and take home with us.  For me, having these existential moments was made even sweeter by the squeeze of his hand, the stroke of his fingers on my knee, the reflection of his smile in the rear-view mirror.  The smile lines on his face seemed deeper, fuller than I’d seen in a long, long time.  He needed this break in reality and so did I.

None of this would have been possible if it were not for him.  The air fare, the car rental, all of the food, the room, the planning, the details, the investigation – all of these things were brought to the table by him.  I still wonder what I brought, though.  I am paying him back, over time, with my meager income.  I will help him pay down the credit card bill, as is my duty.  Still, though, I wonder why I was there, in those moments, with him.

Perhaps the answer is caught in the photos I took.  The smile on his face, the wonderment I witnessed as he rose up out of the surf, gleeful, telling me all about the sea life he swam and snorkeled with.  The group of sea turtles, the hundreds of fish, acres of coral, and miles of soft sand all gave him such wonderment and joy.  His giggle, as he watched me revert into a young boy rolling around in surf too high to go swimming in and powerful enough to inspire awe with each rumble and roar of the waves, might hold the key as to why I was allowed to join him on this adventure.  His hand grasped mine as the sun sank below the western horizon, while giant waves broke along the golden ragged shore, grinding away at the ancient lava floes, reshaping the island with each massive stroke and swath of water.  I could hear his sigh as he paused to take it all in beside me, those two blessed minutes between the sun touching the surface of the water and when it disappeared beneath the waves.  I witnessed the man I love falling back in love with the world around him, and it left me breathless.

I am forever changed by this experience, and I know it.  I have been able to see and take part in a world that is not my own, but that I am a part of, and want to know more about.  It was fleeting, and somewhat filtered, but it was real.  We put down the guide book and stayed away from the places that the tourists were herded like mindless sheep, and set off to find our own way, find our own path on those distant shores, and that made all of the difference.  Knowing that Ray operates in this manner, that he seeks the road not over-tread, not shaped and forced so as to be a marketable (and profit-driven) entity, is one of the thousand reasons I love him.  He, like me, wants to live an authentic life, and be present in both moments of his own creation and moments that are presented to him.

I think the biggest take-away from the trip, along with the bits of sand in my suitcase that I am hesitant to dump out, is the lesson in being in the here-and-now of our lives.  From the start of this relationship, Ray has insisted that we remain present-tense.  At first, I thought this was a fear of the future, of putting pressure on tomorrow at the expense of overlooking today.  In some way, that is true, and adding the existence of separate pasts that haunt us both and have an effect on how we perceive both the present and future, we have both had to work really hard at keeping ourselves from being caught up in the planning and hope of tomorrow.  I continue to struggle with it, and from time to time, I get caught up in pinning my happiness on what is to come, rather than finding the pleasure in now.  Ray has been teaching me to get better with this, and when he makes me look upward, outward, and all around me from a very pinpoint place (geographical, emotional, or otherwise), I can’t help but take this as yet another lesson in how to actually live.

I have so much more to learn, but through it all, I remain humbled, fortunate, and madly in love with Raymond.  This is far more than I ever thought possible in my life, and sometimes I can’t quite fathom how I got so lucky.  I am beyond thankful.  I am simply rendered speechless.