Author Archives: Matt
“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”
-William Arthur Ward
When I was younger, I believed, like all children, that I was invincible. I played, lived, and existed as if nothing mattered. Just me, the petulant center of my own universe. As the years passed, I learned to love, hate, and feel pain and sadness. I taught myself to become numb to large emotional swings, be them happy or sad. I made myself change. Over the years, people would ask me if I was “happy” because I didn’t react as I “should have” with an outward expression that was typical for the situation. I was happy, but I didn’t show it like other people. My face didn’t glow with happiness. I didn’t exclaim or cheer at Christmas. I was just there. I tried to focus my emotions to remain at “0.” It felt safe. Never tipping my hand or showing excessive emotional responses and trying to remain at “0” protected me and insulated me from pain. The pain of sadness and the pain that remains when happiness diminishes.
In hindsight, I can see that when a kid or adult’s response to a Christmas filled with gifts, family, and all the food they love is more blasé than excited it could be…off putting to most people. So, yeah, my attitude was often seen as “bad” or “unthankful” and it did cause stress and disappointment to the people around me. When I would feel that disappointment with me, it only strengthened my resolve to be as inoculated as I could from feeling it. Putting yourself into a willing form of isolation doesn’t feel like isolation. The walls I built around myself were constantly reinforced and made taller in order to withstand the persistent tide of the things that bring enviable pain. You lose perspective and don’t know how tall and think those walls are becoming until they aren’t keeping things away from you, but keeping you away from things.
Now, I have no choice but to accept that the invincibility I have believed in for so long and the emotional shield of being at “0” have
ultimately been a detriment to my life. At 45, I am breaking down. I am breaking down in an emotionless prison I built over time. No one can tell I am suffering. No one can tell I am not “ok.”
I am no longer able to heal adequately. I have chronic pain every day. I am crumbling emotionally. Coping is a skill I do not have. Deflection and prevention are no longer viable options for me. The forces of life are cresting over my walls and I can not build as fast as I once could.
I am suffering from the delayed onset of change, or its more commonly known term, age. I am aging, but I am unprepared to age. I am not able to accept something that I have attempted to protect myself from, but now have no choice but to literally suffer through each day and watch in imperceptible fear whatever comes over my walls next as it rains down over me. I am just sitting here cowering inside my own fortress of “0” -waiting for what I now see as the inevitable denoument of my existance – nothingness.
“The longest journey begins with a single step.”
It deserves noting that the man who is quoted as saying that also said:
“…the important thing in a military operation is victory, not persistence.”
It makes me wonder what is really important. Is it the journey or the outcome. Mr. Tsu seems to indicate by these two (out of context) quotes that starting something is more important than the length of the ordeal itself, but in the end the result is all that really matters.
Does one follow the heart and choose a path that will make themselves happy, yet make life more risky for his family or does one keep the status quo which is safe and practical. The first more risky option has the potential to grow, the second is stagnant yet consistent. The illusion of choice….
If only there was some inspiration I could draw on, now that old Tsu is of no help to me:
Thank you Steve. For one second, the millions you made off the back of Chinese sweat shop workers was momentarily forgotten. If Steve could talk to Sun Tsu, I wonder what he would say about his life and the choices he made…
OH WAIT, HERE IT IS!!! Hypothetical Letter from Steve Jobs to Sun Tsu How fortunate…
I am tired and frustrated and unsure about some things.
What do diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, cardiac hyper tension, and a severe case of denial have in common? Many of you would say something akin to, “early death” or “signs of an inactive life” and you would not be wrong. However, my answer would be “me” – more specifically, the old me.
Not too long ago, I was sitting at a dinner with a group of friends when one asked an other, “Are you sure there is no way you can do the Spartan Race with me?” I had heard of a Spartan Race before, so I paid attention to their discussion. While I was not so shyly eavesdropping, two things occurred to me. The first realization was that neither of my friends were including me in this adventure. The second was why they hadn’t included me. A slow yet consistent thought came to dominate my head. It was the realization that I was not seen by other people as I viewed myself. As that truth unfolded in my mind, I slowly came to the realization that I was living a lie.
I believed that I was in shape. I believed I was athletic. I believed I was tough. As much as I believed these things to be true, my friends did not. The realization that my friends didn’t think I would be interested in, or able to complete, an obstacle course race was compounded by the fact that I was realizing that my self image was not accurate. Talk about a shock to the system! The image my brain created and the image my eyes saw in a mirror was not a true representation of who I was. My mind had created a shield. My friends accidentally shattered my manufactured self- image as I quietly looked down into an over filled plate of self-realization.
As they talked, and I listened, something happened. Something quick came alive in my head. That something made me say out loud, “I will run it with you,” to the apparent shock of my wife and the rest of the table. Maybe it was denial being pushed into realization. Maybe it was false pride making me say something out of haste. The thought that I was not perceived by the others as I perceived myself was shocking and eye-opening to me. The call to arms was sounded, although unintentionally. My brain responded confidently.
Whatever it was that made me speak up, I am grateful for it. Now, I had a goal. I had a timeline. I said to myself, “Quit lying to yourself and get to work. It is time to be the person who you have been pretending to be.” All of these positive affirmations and goal setting were great except for one thing. I had one more realization coming around the bend and it was the most important one yet.
Over the following weeks, the barriers that had kept me from making a commitment like this to myself were falling down as the number of sit-ups, pull-ups, and miles I could jog increased. As all the excuses melted away, their absence reveled the one main reason that had kept me from making this commitment before now. I was afraid.
I was afraid of failure and comfortable with mediocrity. That fear had paralyzed my ability to achieve anything past the self-imposed limitations that I had lived in for way too long. Gradually, I came to realize that I was showing myself that I could run a Spartan Race and not be afraid. The commitment to the physical training and practice of overcoming obstacles led me to a point where the fear of failure was not nearly as strong as the rewarding feeling I received when I climbed my 1st rope or completed my 1st mile run without stopping. Minor successes were destroying decades old fear and I came to love that feeling.
I completed the first Spartan race I ran. Did I come in first place overall? No. Did I win? Yes. I outran the only opponent I really had when I stood at the starting line – the old me. Needless to say, the commitment I made to myself has stuck. Obstacle course racing , the exercise, and diet I have adopted to help me run more in the future will be the vehicle to make me physically and mentally healthier. If I can offer some advice to those people who see themselves in the “old me” description it would be simply this: You don’t need to be able run 6 miles, you don’t need to be able to do 20 burpees, you don’t need to be able to climb a 20 foot rope. You do need to be honest with yourself about why you aren’t trying to do the things you really want to do. After all, you are reading this for a reason. I think that reason is you want to try obstacle racing. Trust me, a newbie like you, that you will lose that “old self” mentality very soon and discover a whole new world of possibilities that you never knew were within reach. I hope to see you at a race sometime soon where we can both outrun our old selves.
Originally written for www.mudandadventure.com 11/17/2014
As devoted readers know, I had a vertical gastric sleeve in April 17th, 2014.
I was 300 lbs at surgery. I am now 194. I know I have lost 100+ lbs. I wear much smaller clothes. People tell me I look great.
I KNOW ALL OF THAT. I REALLY KNOW IT….
However, my brain does not believe it. Let me try to explain this….
EXAMPLE 1: I was having a conversation with 2 football coaches last week. Both of them are very overweight. Coach 1 makes a comment similar to “I tried to jump to the left and just couldn’t stop and just kept on going…” Coach 2 says “Maybe lose that gut and you might could have stopped” I chime in, “Big guys like us aren’t too graceful are we?” The tone of the conversation, until I opened my mouth, was one of lighthearted fun. The minute I grouped my self in the “big guys” group – they both looked at me like “WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, YOU AREN’T FAT LIKE US.” I honestly had to stop and process what was happening. They OBVIOUSLY took offence to my statement about all 3 of us being overweight. I was instantly uncomfortable and didn’t realize why they were so appalled that I referred to us as “big guys”.
EXAMPLE 2: I am a professional tennis player. When someone hits a shot I cant get to- one that I believe I should have gotten to- I say “Hurry up fatass” sometimes out loud but always to myself. A couple nights ago I missed a shot and said that out loud – obviously referring to myself- and my partner walked over laughing and said “You know you aren’t fat anymore.” TOTAL SYSTEM SHOCK. I have never heard those words said to me before. It took restraint to not say, “What are you talking about…Yes, I am fat.”
I had not realized that other people don’t see me how my mind continues to see me. I still mentally believe I am very, very overweight…until I look in a mirror.
I suppose I underestimated the mental adjustment time frame that I obviously have to make when it comes to my self image.
Armchair psychologists, weight loss veterans, and anyone else…chime in and let me know what you think.
I know its been a while. Well, dear reader, I have been busy. With Kid #1, Kid #2, Wrist Surgery, Gut Surgery…and other reasons that sound like plausible excuses to not continue this blog. However, I am vowing to make more frequent posts starting…now.
MORE FREQUENT POST #1
On April 17th of this year I had a procedure called a Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy
Two weeks prior to surgery I was on 100% liquids with the last week all CLEAR liquids. Surgery happens. 2.5 weeks later I was still HATING this decision. FOOD and LIQUIDS hurt when you swallowed more than a thimble full. It was a constant fight against 38 years of practice. I lost many battles.
Then something happened. I swallowed instinctively and NOTHING BAD HAPPENED. I remember thinking, “Oh shit! I’m about to pop staples and die from some septic gunk coursing through my veins.” Staples held, nothing bad happened, I lived – and still am. In fact I’m much better. See below:
April 17, 2014 – Weight 298 lbs. (45.6 BMI)
June 23, 2014- Weight 224 lbs (34.1 BMI)
TOTAL WEIGHT LOSS- 74 lbs.
A1C on Surgery Date- 6.7 (6.5 + is Diabetic)
A1C on June 16, 2014- 4.6 (5.7 and below is normal)
Post Meal Glucose Level on Surgery Date- 210 mg/dl (DIABETIC is 200 mg/dl or greater)
Post Meal Glucose Level on June 22, 2014- 99 mg/dl (NORMAL is <140 mg/dl)
Waist Size Pre-Surgery- 46 in.
Waist Size June 6, 2014- 36 in
Shirt Size Pre-Surgery- XXL
Shirt Size June 6, 2014- L
Shoe Size Pre-Surgery- 10 wide
Shoe Size June 6, 2014- 9 med
Addendum: Additional non-quantifiable changes post surgery:
- Chicken Nuggets were amazing before. They now smell like Satan’s dirty underwear.
- Salmon – Pre-Surgery- yucktastic Now- an amazing fish
- Ice Cream is impossible to eat now. (kinda bummed about that one…not really)
- Knee/foot pain from tennis – largely gone
- Existing on less than 1000 calories a day is not as bad as you may think
- Gatorade is physically easier to drink than water (I know, that is hard for me to believe too)
- My libido is more…noticeable.
Any one out there have any comments, recommendations, or accolades to throw my way…Lets read em. Post in comments.
Progress is being made.
I am moved to post this as a public service. I am not concerned with discussions about this or anything else…however, if you want to comment, go ahead. I wont ignore it.
Here is my short list of points of advice to the general public:
- If you receive any governmental (State or Fed) assistance (CHIPS, MEDICAID, DISABILITY…), Do not go on any social media site and complain about the government giving away your tax dollars to other people. Especially if you are trying to make other people think you AREN’T receiving any. Surprise, they already know and you look like you are in denial or, worse, a racist.
- Do not make any public statements about how “Obama shut down the government.” The House of Representatives is the only branch that can do that. Open a civics book and save yourself the embarrassment.
- If you haven’t read “What’s the matter with Kansas” – Do it.
- A well made duck call does not a role model make.
- “Gourmet fast Food” is still fast food.
- Do not touch other people’s kid (especially on the hair or face) when you walk up to say “hello” to the parent.
More to follow…
It’s out there, you know, the alternative to happiness and hope – reality. Waiting silently like a shadow- calm and patient. All the while knowing that you will be coming to it- sooner or later. Reality does not chase you. The illusion of safety leads to the sloth of complacency. There is no guarantee that anything is permanent or has any truth behind it. Lies kill hope, inaction kills potential, and regret fuels the memory. That’s when reality wraps its cold and often unyielding arms around you- reassuring you that now is when you have to deal with what is been just over the horizon – waiting on you to forget it exists. Beauty and happiness only stay your eventual embrace of the reality of what being alive is truly about. Pain.
I suppose the alternative to sucking it up and trudging along in your miserable state is to simply give up. On the surface it is an attractive option. For instance, sell what you have and say, “Fuck it.” Buy a used Winnebago and head to Montana.* Is that really an option with two kids, 2 jobs, and a mortgage you cant afford anymore? Nope.
So what do you do? More specifically, what do I do? Reality is really kicking my ass – and its winning. Life is painful now. I feel it. I feel tired, angry, unlucky, alone, sad, and powerless. I can not fix what is wrong. I can only adjust to what other people, other people’s decisions, and other people’s whims allow for me. I work all the time at a job I hate. I supplement that income with a job that takes a lot of time away from my kids- I wrestle with the question, “Is the income worth the absence from my kids?” Now, without that income my kids lose (They will lose more that what they are about to be losing very soon.) So, that answers that.
I would imagine by now, dear reader, that you are waiting on the, “…but I will keep putting one foot in front of the other.” part of this post. I am sorry I can not give you that. I can not lie and say that I will find some self worth or inner strength from what is happening now- and will continue to happen for quite a while. I am crumbling. I feel it.
I will give you one last thought that echos in my head every night before I willingly close my eyes – “I just want everything to be O.K.”
I am trying to make it O.K. I just don’t know if I am making any progress. It does not feel like it. I am scared.
If I were to tell a Hindu about how my life is right now a response would be close this, “Your current situation is the exactly correct situation for you to be in, given you soul’s previous action. Experiencing current suffering also satisfies the debt incurred for past behavior.” I don’t know if that is true, I don’t believe it is, but just in case it is “As It Is””** I would like to apologize to my wife and kids for putting them here. I am sorry we are where we are and wish I could better our situation.
* The winnebeago would break down in Iowa and ole reality would be there waiting on you- not good
** sorry, couldn’t resist
I am at a metaphorical and metaphysical crossroad in my life. I am willing to admit that I am having issues believing that you are real. I do not know a better way to say this. I am not in the habit of speaking ill of believers or supporting non-believers. I, being a solitary person, need something to make me believe or at least nudge me toward the conclusion that there are powers greater than human love and human hate- yet, WHAT that could be, i admit i don’t know. I see beauty in life, in my children, in other people, and in myriad aspects of the world and its people. Is that you or just how it is? However, I also see what else exists in this world that is still in the per view of your domain that is not good or beautiful. Is that you too or just how it is? Do you not intervene in the world? Text suggests you did in the past. Why not now? Do you now simply let people … do what people do? Is it because people are a constant source of disappointment to you and you have simply stopped?
On a similar topic, Are you moral and good or are you ambivalent and lassier faire when it comes to this corporeal domain? There seem to be many of us that speak in your name. Who is right? Who is wrong? Does it matter? I am sure you have heard “all roads lead to Rome.” Is a similar phrase true for religion? Do “all religions lead to god?” Does religion in its most dogmatic definition really matter to you? Does stained glass and recitation of specific text bring someone to a closer understanding of what is really going on here on earth better than praying 3 times a day? Does any of that really matter to you? What are we supposed to be doing? Are we supposed to be doing anything at all?
Are we here to simply BE here. Is that it? For the record, I am OK if that is it. I would just like to know- completely know. I admit, I am asking for the keys to the kingdom while insisting on to the right to cast it aside if I don’t like it. I am not special, nor do I warrant any special attention. Nor do I not expect any special attention to my plea. I know many people have asked for a sign to bolster or give validity to their faith. I freely admit that am unsure that if I were to ask for a sign I wouldn’t know who to ask for that sign. Is the religion of my area the right one? Are you a white-bearded Caucasian, who came back to earth approximately 2000 years ago as a brown haired, blue eyed man or are you a elephant headed being that millions of kids in India love and pray to? I ask because images of you portray you as both of these and many more. Some say we were made in your image. So, is the image of the man in robes a closer representation of you or is the image of a man in robes what we humans want to god to be? If the latter is true it seems pretty vain on our part. On the surface that seems a trivial point, but to me, it matters.
I realize that you may or may not already know this was going to be written and may have answered me and I was too dense to see that answer. I admit that is a distinct possibility. Never the less, I just thought I would ask.
P.S. If you aren’t god (or God) please feel free to respond.