They’d been there a long time, and really, I’d seen them in glimpses of myself, growing in stature, a bit more round, a little more sag, and growing pile of t-shirts I was starting to avoid, but a week ago they overwhelmed me, and I started to hate, and then accept, and finally, decided to start doing something about it. There have been some hiccups along the way.
The flabby state of my pecs was clear when I stood next to Nate in the video we made for work. There had been strong hints to the fact that I was growing soft, and now there was a physical manifestation to prove the fact. By soft I don’t mean the firmness of my body—though there is that—but really my mind. The ability to keep pushing when things were hard was a trait I once congratulated myself on having, but now I know it is not innate; it is a muscle that has to be repeatedly exercised. Worked and honed, or else it atrophies. I have become comfortable, being less than. A state I always assumed would feel like death, but have found to just be another form of “living”. It’s an easier way to go through life. Until you start asking questions again at least.
How many times have I tried to remake myself into the person I want to be? I ask myself as I run down the street to the park. It is a fair question. One that is hard to ask every morning when I look into the mirror (But at least I’ve gotten to the point where I can look myself in the mirror. It’s harder than you think.) And so I ask it on a run, when I don’t have to face my answer. It’s a clever dodge. I don’t know the answer, but I can recall the failures.
There was a moment. It lasted more than a year. Overweight, but still
“hitting the gym” four days a week I was awakened to what could be done if one just pushed hard enough. That was in the spring of 2008. I was 170 pounds, by the summer I’d thinned out to 145. My weight all through high school. I was twenty-eight years old. The work I did brought a sort of swagger, and though other aspects of my life were falling apart, I persisted and grew. It was proof that I could accomplish what I had set out to do. But I failed to apply the lesson to the other aspects of my life. An important relationship ended. I went deeper into the gym. I got stronger. I learned to endure more. But later I slid back, the flame of supposed self-improvement began to fail. The thing that was supposed to be saving me, was keeping me in the dark.
I think of that time between the foot falls.
That effort was fueled by self-loathing. An effective fuel, but, like using pine as firewood, it burns too hot and too fast to be of any long term use. It wasn’t sustainable, and when it came to doing the really hard work of transitioning that self-discipline into the real world, paying your bills on time, delaying the satisfaction of something new and in the present, for a greater reward in the future. I feel short.
At its core this isn’t about me weighting as much as I did when I was in high school. Nor is it about how my body compares to that of someone fourteen years my junior. It doesn’t have to do with how fast I race or ride a bike now. All of that is superficial. It is about all those times I wasn’t willing to ask more of myself, to go deeper and truly mine the depths of what I’m capable of. It is about being afraid of my potential, and (dare I pat myself on the back?) my fucking talent (what little bit of it I’ve earned.) It is about trying to quell the feeling that my life is in an inert state, possible of so much, but unable to move forward.
I start something, and then, at the first signs of true progress, I stop. Human beings default to laziness and mediocrity. I am no different. Sometimes, I get called on it, and then I feel badly, but not badly enough to start pushing again. There’s no point in asking someone to help hold you accountable if you aren’t capable of holding yourself to the standard you set for yourself. Can I start looking in the mirror and asking myself the question “Did I do enough for myself today?” and not shirk the answer?
“Eventually, I sickened of people, myself included, who don’t think enough of themselves to make something of themselves—people who did only what they had to and never what they could have done. I learned from them the infected loneliness that comes at the end of every misspent day.” Mark Twight