I Need

The world seems to be on fire, or drowning, or both.  The recent election, the slew of horror-story memes, contradictions, opposite-land cabinet picks, and the direction that my country is going to be heading over at least the next four years, have all carved away at my eternal optimism to a point where I don’t know how to be anymore.  This lack of hope, lack of light, and lack of focus has me grasping at any and everything that might be construed as positive, but time and time again, those things that bring me moments of joy are elusive and slip through my fingers.  So, I’m back to this space, this darkness.

I took off to the snow and evergreens a little while ago, and for a moment, I found respite.

Tomorrow, I want to go back, back up there, back to where the snow crunches, the air is perfumed with fir and spruce, and the sounds around me are muffled by the blanket of winter that covers every surface that faces the sky.

I need a retreat from this world.

Summer’s Last Stand

It’s been a really interesting summer.  I went into it, with a very open work schedule, expecting to be able to get out and do a lot more than we have this year.  My knee injury earlier this year, coupled with Ray’s ongoing shoulder problem, has kept us a little closer to home than I had anticipated.  We haven’t gone camping as much as we did last summer, it seems, nor have we taken as many long-distant journeys around the Pacfic Northwest.  That all said, it’s not like it’s been a bad summer at all.  It’s been a lot more transformative than I expected.

We did get up to Canada, and celebrated Ray’s success at passing his Level 1 Sommelier exam.  This act underlines his abilities to suggest and serve wine, and demonstrates on his resume and at future job interviews, that his knowledge is real and verified.  It’s been a huge bump to his feeling of justification and personal security, and I’ve really seen a lot of worry and tension and depression start to wane in my boyfriend.  Because of this, we’ve started actively exploring our next step, looking at employment options, housing options, and having longer discussions about what happens after living here in Portland.  To that end, for myself, I’ve taken the steps to re-enroll in classes at the local community college in an attempt to learn new and different skills that can help me in my own job placement outside of Portland.  It’s caused me to reconsider getting back into the classroom, to start the process of obtaining a teaching license, and as of tomorrow, has me registering for introductory courses in Computer Science.  I’m starting to put more stock in the idea that Ray and I do, in fact, have a future that goes beyond the here and now, but I’m having these feelings and reacting to them in a way that isn’t going against Ray at all.  Instead, there’s a synergy, a parallel, between him and I that has really sparked a new level of connection between us both.

I’ve really enjoyed the summer of the Jeep, even though it’s been a bit bumpy as a car owner.  It has been broken into twice and has ended up back at the dealer twice now for repairs, but all in all, having that vehicle, my dream vehicle, with the top down and the tunes up, flying across the grasslands of central Oregon, or winding up through the mountains on either side of town, has brought me such joy and happiness.  I love the freedom, I love the ability to throw the top down and just feel the world around me, and I love what being able to afford this vehicle has done for my feelings toward myself.  Three years ago, I was an absolute fiscal mess.  I had no job.  I was stuck in a world that wasn’t of my design.  I had nothing and no one to really turn to, and was allowing someone else, outside forces, direct me.  Now, only a short while after, things have really changed for the better.

This summer has seen a real push with my writing, too.  Having joined the small writing group that I belong to has been a real blessing in my life.  Every other week, I now have a wonderful gaggle of people conversing with me about the book, about their own work, about the struggles we all face as we try to hone our craft.  It’s super supportive, super engaging, and really reminds me that there is more to me than my ability to drive a bus and do the laundry.  I’ve seen this sixth revision of a story I began back in 2011 really take some amazing shapes, and plumb a lot of depths that I was once too afraid to explore.  In doing so, I am constantly feeling the loosening grip of darkness and fear that has always plagued me from telling a story that was as authentic as possible.  This feeling of liberation has really expressed itself outward in my daily life, and I come back to the house, to my job, and to my boyfriend every other Wednesday night feeling renewed and resolved to go further and do better.

To that end, this summer has also been a lot about overcoming my insecurities with regards to my relationship and the faith I have in it.  Ray and I have come up against moments that have required trust and commitment, as well as honest (sometimes brutally so) conversations about fear and worry that we both have.  In being able to hold space for these kind of talks, though, and seeing the promises we’ve made to each other act out in real-time between us, has had the cumulative effect of really deepening the bond he and I share.  Every day, it seems, he’s reminding me just how unlike any other man I’ve ever been this close to he truly is.  I expect rebuke, I brace for antagonism, and a constant stream of doubt towards the choices and actions that I make for myself and the direction of my life.  Instead, I keep getting more support, more love, more optimism from Ray.  I had no idea that this is how a healthy relationship was supposed to work.  I’m still learning and man – it’s such a valuable lesson.

Summer might be coming to an end soon, but we’ve still got lots going on this year to look forward to.  I have school.  Ray’s doing more and building out his resume in ways that will really set the stage for us soon.  We’re also planning a joint adventure for our birthday that is shaping up to be a lot of fun and will bring us back to Denver, where I can reconnect with past friends and remind myself of where I’ve been.  There’s also the chance that one of his dear friends will be joining us for Thanksgiving this year, so I might have the opportunity to put on a full-on feast, which I adore doing.

 

18 Months

I woke up this morning with the anxiety-laden realization that, as of May 1, I am exactly eighteen months away from turning forty years old.

Sure, I’m anxious about this, which is a mix of social training and pressures from external forces, but in reality, I’m also anxious about it on the inside.  My body is not that of a twenty-year-old anymore, and hasn’t been for exactly that amount of time.  I have been rather abusive towards the flesh I’m in, bouncing up and down in weight and size repeatedly over those years.  I’ve flung myself from calm repose to panicked insanity more times than I can count, and through all of that, my body has taken on the scars – externally and internally.

This morning, as the weight of all of this pressed down on my flabby, fatty, man-boob chest, I decided to face it down with a walk.  I needed to clear the air, clear my mind, and just get out there and press the pavement for a bit.  Walking, as always, seems to have helped me clean out the cobwebs and set me up for some productive thoughts, increasing with each stride and milepost I passed.

I am going to set up a personal fitness challenge for each month.  For the month of May, to mark the start of my eighteen months of crunch time, I’ve set a goal to walk at least 100 miles.  Walk, run, skip, hike, or whatever movement with my feet underneath me – but a 100 miles by May 31.  I did some quick math, and that works out to twenty-five miles a week, and if today’s walk is any indication of the speed and time that will require, I can do a five-mile walk in just over an hour.  I now, as of today, have a loop that is measured out for me, and that I can do, and add in variables such as taking different side-streets, adding in a stop for coffee or the bathroom, or even run at parts.  What I need to do now, though, is commit to doing this five times a week.  My days off, Monday through Thursday, will allow for this to be a morning ritual.  What I do need to do, though, is pick a day during my work period – Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, to complete one more loop.

I can do this.  I can fight back the urge to just collapse at the end of a day and say goodbye to the world in it’s entirety.

Alongside this walking goal, I’m going to pay closer attention to what and how much I eat.  Right now, even though I’ve had spurts of “healthy clean eating,” basically, it all breaks down at least once or twice a week and I reach for the pizza, peanut butter, or beer/liquor.  While I could promise myself that I’m going to not do those things, the reality is I’m not going to give them up.  I enjoy them too much.  What I can do, though, is mitigate them and their caloric grandiosity by countering those richer days with leaner days.

What I don’t need to do, though, is make this whole experiment stressful.  The other night, while Ray and I were having a “reset conversation” about the state of things in our relationship, he called me out on my obsession with my weight and size.  It bugs him that do it.  It bugs him to hear me go on and on about how fat I am or how weak I’ve become.  The fact is, he loves me in all of my various states and shapes.  He is supportive of me and my efforts without castigating me when I slip and fall.  He’s the first person to offer a glass of wine after a long, awful day, and while I know it’s not the most healthy way to deal with that kind of stress, I will not deny the deliciousness that is a fine red wine.

I can do this.  I can find a balance.  I can make the next eighteen months count.  I can make them as enjoyable as I dare.  I can’t wait to see where this takes me.

February Was

Last month was a slog.  I didn’t really post much here, or anywhere, that was of any consequence.  For the most part, I was sequestered to sitting down, to remaining still, as my knee was dealt with in due time.  The stir-craze was real, and my thoughts were racing.  As you all know, I tend to deal with my feelings and thoughts through movement, and since that was impeded by my aging and breakable body, it was really hard to get a focus on what I was supposed to be doing.

I did, however, get to spend a great deal of time writing.  Specifically, I got to bust through a few more chapters on this sixth rewrite of my memoir.  My writing group, a fantastic bunch of gals here in Portland, have been super helpful in getting my motivation back to where it should be, and through their cheerleading, I feel like this book has taken on a new and renewed life.  It’s cutting deeper than I’ve ever been brave enough to let it, and I’m getting down the words that I’ve struggled to write for almost two decades.  It’s been good.  I can’t wait to share more about that here, to be honest.

Since the surgery – a mere two weeks ago – I’ve been absolutely astounded by the recovery that has occurred.  Honestly, I thought I’d be lamed up for quite some time, but not two days after the cuts and bandages, I was up and walking around without the use of my crutches or any of the mega-strong pain pills that the doctor prescribed me.  In the past two weeks, I’ve managed to go on some decent walks, get back to the gym (THANK ALL THAT IS HOLY FOR THAT MIRACLE), and actually go out on a short hike with Ray to a part of Oregon we’ve never visited before.  I was still able to take the jeep out for drives while my knee wasn’t up to par, so I was able to get out, technically, but to feel the movement of the ground beneath my feet, the crunch of gravel, or the contours of terra firma beneath the pads of my feet meant the world to me.

I remember back to a strange and lovely poetry/literature class I took in my undergrad, where the professor took us outdoors and had us just walk around in a mindful manner.  Feeling and experience each step on the soft grass of the land surrounding the old brick English department meant slowing down, taking one’s time, and tracing the energy threads and movement of the ground beneath our feet and up through our legs.  It was a lesson in slowing down and noticing details, and for me, that’s what hiking and walking and any other movement of my body has become.  To have that faculty back, to be able to walk again and feel every step, has meant a return to some sort of balance for me.  I’m not feeling broken or trapped, lost or misplaced.  My anxiety about all things has subsided a bit, and the fresh air has been so damn good for me, especially on the rare spring days up here where the sun shines.

February was also a good month for Ray and I to sit and talk about what we actually want to be doing over the next few years.  For his part, he’s decided to make some real steps towards life beyond serving tables.  For my part, I’ve realized that my skills and resume need a brush-up.  I’ve taken a few steps towards getting back into the classroom as a student, and as of just a few days ago, my FAFSA was approved and I’m looking at taking classes at my local community college, with an eye towards learning Computer Information Systems, possibly a degree in Computer Science.  Being adept on the computer, and not just as a user of the technology, has always been a curiosity of mine, and I’d like to see what I can do with that going forward.  Having done a little research online for the kind of pay and positions that exist – especially in the rural areas where we might end up living – I’ve learned that I can make it a thing.  I can make a decent salary while taking onboard the rural life that Ray and I want for ourselves.  What that means, though, is I need to build a bridge from here to there, and that means more education.  It means shaking up my brain a bit, and challenging myself.

First up will be a revisit to math.  I squeaked by in my college math course, but it’s been two decades since I’ve actively sat and did mathematics as homework or to study for an exam.  Beyond that, my first semester would be exploratory.  I kind of know what I want to study, but I don’t know if I’ve got the aptitude to really dive into it the way I should.  I don’t really know where to begin, so I’m hoping that, with an academic advisor’s guidance along with a network of friends who are already in the field I’m considering, that I can figure it out.

Now that March is here, I’m ready for adventure.  I went to the gym last night and was happy to experience a pain-free workout, even with a teeny-tiny bit of running on the treadmill.  My weight and size remain an issue for me, but now that I can get back at the program I was on (and seeing some real results), I plan to stick to it and see where it takes me.  We’re taking off to Seattle, WA next week for a little mini-vacation, and plans are already in play for major summer travels.  Victoria Island, BC is one destination.  I still need to make my way back east, back to see my family.  I do have a week-long vacation coming up around the end of May, and I still only work three days a week, so there are almost limitless possibilities.  Ray is as adventurous as ever, and now that he’s finally looking forward in his own life, the conversations between us while we are out and about have become quite deep and meaningful.  It’s as if our relationship has grown up too, and that, to me, is really exciting and energizing.  I can’t wait to see where we go over the next year or so.

A Present and Resolution

This time of year is typically dedicated to getting things for others as a way to show appreciation for having them in your life.  It’s also to mark the occasion of the wheel of the year turning yet again, and spinning us back towards bright, sun-filled days (up here in the north, anyway).  It’s often when thoughts about the New Year are filled with promises to one’s self.  This, for me, has always been true, at least.  I know I set personal goals at my birthday (my Personal New Year), but I also set and/or re-set my goals as January approaches.  For me, it’s just a good way to start things.

This year, I gave myself a holiday present.  I bought 12 weeks worth of coaching on Fitocracy.  The plan I paid into – No Cardio Fat Shred – is a foundational reformation of how I approach food and exercise.  The coach, Jason, seems really nice.  He’s started us off on a real back-to-basics training with our relationships to food.  He’s  In the past, I’ve gone whole-hog into calorie counting, or whole-hog into “clean eating” (nothing processed, mostly “paleo”).  Each one of these diets has left me craving, and in the end, I’ve fallen back into old ruts that are doing absolutely nothing for my waistline, or my self-esteem.

This plan that I’m doing now, along with a number of others from all over the place, including my friend Andy from back in Denver, is all about meeting specific nutritional targets, or macronutrients, all while doing moderately intense activity at the gym.  Immediately after reading the intro to the program, and before shelling over any of my money, I realized this was exactly what I needed:  A way back to “eat right and exercise” advice that made sense.

On days that I’m exercising, I have set target macros.  For me, for now, it’s 200g of protein, 175g of carbohydrates, and 40g of fat. On days that I’m not exercising, I cut out the carbs and eat a little more fat.  I get all the “freebies” I want – vegetables of mostly every sort (except the starchier ones like potatoes).  The workouts aren’t too awful.  It’s about 45 mins at the gym three times a week – also very doable, and no cardio, as the name suggests.  That said, when the weather finally clears and I want to go out for a walk, I’m going to do just that.  I don’t need to do it out of punishment, or turn it into a 10-mile run.  I can just enjoy the stroll.  Just like I can enjoy my food in a reasonable and responsible way that nourishes my body.

Today was day one of the twelve weeks.  We had all of last week to get amped up for the program, and to start thinking about the planning and life shifts we all need to make.  For me, with my work schedule being what it is, meeting the exercise and dietary goals shouldn’t be a huge issue during the week.  At the weekends, when I’m behind the wheel of the bus, might prove to be a little more challenging, but I’ve got to figure it out.  I’ve got a team of people holding me accountable, not to mention my coach, and myself.

My biggest reflection today, as I sat down to enjoy some baked chicken and potatoes, was that I’ve always been ashamed of my body.  I’ve always, always, always hated it, and treated it awfully.  Whether overdoing alcohol, or smoking too many cigarettes, or running miles and miles on an empty stomach, to retching into the toilet just to get rid of anything in my belly, or downing a box of laxatives to “clean out” my insides, I’ve had a horrible, horrible attitude towards my body and form.  I need to relearn how to treat my body with dignity.  Now that I’ve cleaned out the nicotine addiction, and now that I’ve got way more control over the food that is available to me, it’s time to be an adult about it all.

I’ve made this promise and resolution to myself far too many times in the past, only to fall off track time and time again.  I’m done with failing.  I’m done with the shame and guilt of a broken promise. I am adult and it’s time I start treating myself like one.

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.

Milestone

I stepped on the scale, and registered the number there:  215.

For a couple of days now, I’ve sat with that, putting it on the back burner, and going about my life.  Things are rolling on here at the house. I’m caught up in the settling, the anxiety of a new place, still getting my bearings, and so I really didn’t let the number on the scale really take on any meaning.  That is, until today.

I just got back from a walk/run of about 10k.  While out there, feeling the endorphins and all that comes with elevated heart rate and such, it hit me.  By reaching that number, 215, which is thirty pounds less than the last time I stepped on the scale, I’ve, in fact, reached about half-way to where I want to be in my skin.  I feel my best at around 185 or so, which if you do the math, is about 60 pounds less than where I was at my heaviest this year.  The fact I’m drawing in close to that mark, that midpoint along this journey, means that, actually, I’m doing something right.  I can, for just a moment, be proud of myself, and this morning, while I was putting one foot confidently in front of the other, I felt that emotion: pride.

No, I’m never going to be a skinny little otter thing.  I see plenty of that walking around town here – tall, lanky, barely 150 pounds, able to whip off their shirts at any opportunity, confident in how their flesh sits on their frames.  Typically, this only works to make me grind my teeth and self-loathe even more because, let’s face it, we’re all a little jealous of the pretty people we see.  Today, though, for just a few minutes, I allowed myself the feeling of being among those confident, head-held-high men.  I inhabited my own body, my own flesh, and while there was still plenty of jiggling and such going on under my tee shirt and around my thighs, in a white heat of euphoric endorphins, none of that really mattered.  What mattered, and what continues to matter, is that I’m effecting positive changes in my physicality.

Giving up sugar in my coffee, cutting back on the alcohol, swapping cereal for a green smoothie or scrambled eggs, drinking more water, paying attention to my sleep, getting out for walks when feasible – these are the steps I’ve taken.  Small, incremental, and at the micro-level, barely registering as change-making.  Taking a step back, though, and reflecting on where I was when I began to regain control of my body about five months ago, I’ve come a long way, and today I am proud of that fact.  The journey continues, though.  It is my life on the line here, after all.