Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Year is Nearly Over ...

And there's only about four months left. But there's so much to do. If anything has been drilled home to me over the course of this summer, it's that my timetable for things never goes according to plan. Here's what I have left to do and my thoughts on it before the year is out.

1. Convert to Catholicism

"Still?" you ask. Yes, still. I'm in the process of, actually going through RCIA as we speak. It's slow. It's methodical and frustratingly so. The book given to me to study and work out of is so small and I can blaze through that puppy in a day. Instead, I'm going lesson by lesson at a crawl.

I wish it was faster but I understand why the pace is slow. It's a lot to learn, even if the book is small, and the deeper insights are where the real work is done. I get it but I'm frustrated. Nevertheless, I'm taking the opportunity presented to me through the RCIA process to dive in to other Catholic practices, putting them into action with other Catholics my age.

But then there's communion, where I continue to be among the few, if not the only one, to sit in my pew as just about everyone else around me goes forward. That, by far, is THE most frustrating thing out of all of it. I realize I'm not Catholic and don't qualify for it, but every time it happens I feel like the guy in the room that's highlighted. That's the biggest turn off of my "put things into practice" method ... but that's the way it is.

2. Lose Weight

"Still?!" Yes, still. The summer has been kind to me and I'm back down to last summer's weight of 145. Am I glad? Absolutely. It's nice not to see the scale in the 150s anymore after a long winter of woe. But I've run the numbers and seen, first hand, what a lower weight on a similar (to myself) body looks like and it looks WAY better than what I'm at.

The new goal is 128 pounds, which means I have a little over 17 pounds to lose. I'd like to get this done before the month is out but that's unlikely. My self-control has been okay but not great, especially with how social I've been these past few weekends. I've failed to adhere to things but haven't paid horribly, thankfully.

But in order to knock my body fat percentage down to 12 percent and try one more time to get rid of the unsightly loose skin, I must go this far. It's not terribly low, but it is lower than my initial projection of 130. Whether I can succeed in this endeavor at all is a valid question, as seeing I've never been able to get my weight lower than 138 (two summer's ago) and that seems an awfully long way from 128.

Still, I have to make the attempt.

3. Learn Etiquette

It has come to my attention that I look uneducated at the dinner table with the way I do things. From my utensil usage to my body posture, I come across as a slob. I'm pissed about it, no doubt, because it's yet another flaw in the long list of flaws that I need to correct in order to be even a remotely decent human being, but this one is going to be a hard flaw to correct.

Much like losing the 133 pounds I did prior, this flaw has a long history and is built into me. I really, really don't care about it that much as it pertains to me. But I do care how others perceive myself.

Still, there needs to be real consequences attached to this and I can only come up with one strategy to successfully teach myself how to do right: by putting the meal on the line.

I've decided to embark on a simplistic "three strikes and you're out" system to teach myself how to do this. At every meal I will judge myself (and have others judge me if they so wish) on proper table etiquette and my performance therein. If I mess up three times, whether by holding a fork incorrectly, misusing a knife, propping my elbows on the table, or leaning over the table, then I lose my right to eat.

Essentially, I either perform correctly at the table or I don't eat. With a meal on the line, I should quickly be able to develop better habits. If not, I lose the right to eat, in which case that'll help my weight loss cause.

It's a win-win situation, really. It may not be pretty in the early goings, but it'll be effective.

4. Learn How to Dress

Men's fashion is a lost cause with me, perhaps. I've been attempting to try and work out some way to figure out what works for me and what doesn't, and I feel I have a decent grasp on it, but I'm not where I should be and my wardrobe is rather limited. My fashion sense is more like an inkling mixed with a guess.

I've stuck this one lowest on the priority list for, depending on my success in losing weight, the needs for it might change. As it stands, I'm satisfied that I'm okay with it, but as seeing that I'm lacking in other areas, I can't justify the effort to be better at it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer of Skin

Today I spent the majority of the day disassembling someone else's room and rearranging it to be my own. Part of me felt then, and still feels now, that this is some strange form of trespassing. Part of me believes that this is is going to karmatically bite me in the tail at some point in the future.

But this was a necessary move and, for the first time in years, I'm sleeping on a bed tonight that isn't a twin. It's a full and, my goodness, did I forget how big beds are. Or maybe the bed seems so big because I haven't slept in one this size since I was 273 pounds. I used to sleep in a queen then and it seemed small.

The full I'm laying on now? Like a freakin' wide swath of land. I have no idea what to do with most of it, but like many things, I imagine I'll get used to it. In the midst of all my moving and hustling up and down the stairs, I realized I had misplaced something.

My swimsuit.

I only possess one to my name at this point. I'll probably never have a large collection, not because I don't like to swim (I do, a lot), but because they seem to last a long time. Then again I used to always have to upgrade to a new swimsuit every other year due my increasing girth, but that's not an issue anymore.

Well, it sorta is. Leading up to the beginning of this summer I was attempting to lose weight again, to get back down to 145 but in truth to aim for 130. That seems to be the magic number for saying goodbye to the loose skin that still bunches up around my stomach. It's unsightly. It's ugly. And it absolutely shouldn't be seen by anyone in my view.

My best friend recommended to me a few months back to get a surfshirt. Something to throw over myself and to hide my loose skin until I can deal with it. But I don't like the idea, simply because it seems wrong. This is summer and it's the absolute worst time of the year for any insecurities about one's body.

We all have them. I do. You do. Everyone I know does. No matter how flawless or amazing someone's body seems to be, they hate theirs like you hate yours some days. It's a fact of life and one that we all too readily deny. I deny it because that's the way it works.

It's summer and it's time to put ourselves on display. The surfshirt thing feels like a cop out, not because it's an illegitimate solution, but because it's just not fair. Everyone else -- especially women -- are pressured to show off their bodies during this time of year. Bikinis are worn up and down the beach, at the pool, at the lake, wherever and we guys can get away with just tossing on a pair of swimshorts and a surfshirt and be fine.

It's wrong. If we expected all men to wear speedoes during the summer and thought it was all right for women to wear whatever we wanted, would us guys be all right with it? Hell no. It wouldn't happen. You'd never see commercials with men in speedoes for big retail stores, you wouldn't see men in speedoes posted on billboards driving into towns, you wouldn't see them on magazines or parading about in public ... no.

We make it okay to objectify women because ... why? Profit? A cultural understanding? It's so ingrained in our culture at this point that women objectify each other now (and perhaps they always have to a certain degree but I feel it's just ridiculous now with the ads everywhere).

And all this brings me back to ... well, me. And my weight. Because it's at 152 and has been for weeks now. Just doesn't want to budge it seems though I'm trying. I've upped my sleep, cut back on my fluids, slightly upped my carbs, I'm exercising more, and generally playing as smart as I can. And I'm still stuck.

I want to be back at 145 at least before this month is over with, but the month has roughly two weeks left now. Last night, as I was restlessly tossing and turning, the dreaded thought came over me that maybe this won't happen by the end of the summer. That I'll still be here. That I'll still be staring at the horror of a past life in the mirror every day.

And it dawned on me as I was looking for my swimsuit today, nearly freaking out because I couldn't find it, that this must be -- in some ways -- what women feel like during this time of year as they try to achieve personal goals to make themselves look better. For whom, I wonder?

For myself, I'm doing it to kill the loose skin. Even though I know it very likely won't and I'll very likely be crushed when I fail, I'm doing it primarily for that. Secondarily, I'm doing it so I can look good in a swimsuit, so I don't have to feel like a reject as I do stuff in it.

It was told to me, this past month, that after a certain age women become irrelevant. That they have to work on themselves and their bodies in order to maintain any relevance. I had no counter argument, for the woman who was telling me this was right. Personally, will she lose her relevance to me ever? No. Never. She'll be at least as amazing (and likely more) as we our friendship continues years down the road.

But will she be irrelevant to society? Yes. The world will move onto something younger. Something "hotter" or "sexier" or "thinner". You don't have a long lifespan if you're a woman in this world in that way.

But I'm a guy. I get to matter forever. You can sit there and rattle off multiple names of men in their 50s, 60s, 70s that are still considered "hot" or "sexy". There's a significant gap in terms of relevant lifespan and there shouldn't be.

I'm in the prime of my life. I'm absolutely in the best shape of my life (despite my higher weight, I still fit into all my clothes and do it well) and only getting better in my view.

But I will never be hot or sexy. I don't think I have the face for that or the build or really even the potentiality. I am distinctly lacking in that area and part of me is very disappointed by that. As a guy, you want to be seen as attractive to the opposite sex.

I can honestly say I'm probably not (really want to say I'm absolutely not but I'll bet there's an outlier somewhere).

But I fear what others think of my body. I hate what I have to see. I actively try and change it.

I will not hide it under a surfshirt. I will not hide it anymore at all. (Don't scroll down if you don't want to see).
















































There's me. Apologies, but a visual representation was needed. As you can see, it's not pretty. That's what I'm trying to kill and that's what I refuse to hide. If it's acceptable to judge people during the summer, women especially, on their bodies then I can't try to skirt around the rules.

My stretch marks are clear. My belly-button is deep, my skin has a roll and hangs sadly there. It's ugly. But it shouldn't and won't be hidden. That same right isn't afforded anyone else, so it should not be afforded to me.

Thanks for reading. Hope the rambling made some sense. God Bless.



Thursday, May 29, 2014

Relationships Are Life

I've been thinking a lot over the last four nights. Sleep hasn't come easy or well. I got five hours one night over the last four days and that's been the max so far this week. My mind's stuck in multiple debates, none with any easy answers (or perhaps any answers at all) and I'm struggling to identify where the answers might be.

I know what set me off: Arlington. I visited that hallowed ground Sunday and witnessed some profound grief from those who were there to visit their friends and loved ones. So often in life we're reminded of what we take for granted in comparison of what someone else has lost.

In my case, I was reminded how easily I accept the relationships I have in my life and how easily they could come to an end. It doesn't take much to snuff out a human life. For all our technological and medical advances, we still don't understand death. We still don't understand why it occurs or what purpose it serves in the cosmic scheme of things. Sure, we understand how people died: finding the cause isn't the issue.

The issue is why did they die. What's the point?

I've been wrestling with this for days and I have come no closer to any definite conclusion. I've reached out to my favorite priest (though, admittedly, he's only one of three I know so it's not like it's a honorable title or anything) but he's been wicked busy this week and I don't foresee us meeting up so I can ask him questions.

I've turned to Catholic teaching, which there is plenty of on the Internet, but that has left me equally unfulfilled. The answer I'm looking for doesn't exist in this life.

But what does exist is our relationships with other people. Friends. Family. Boyfriends, Girlfriends, Husbands, Wives. I think, out of anything else on this planet (including ham and cheese, as well as cheesecake) I will miss that in the afterlife (whether heaven or hell or purgatory). I don't think the rules we know will all apply in the afterlife.

Certainly I don't think I'll be able to look down from heaven, drink wine, and snark with my best friend as we watch college-aged kids do college-aged kids stuff. Pretty sure that's not there.

So, with my mind obsessing over relationships and the many different ones that exist, the question came up (quite early on) about which one is the best. What's the best relationship you can have? For as many people as you ask this question, you'll probably get just as many answers.

But for me the answer is quite simple: a relationship between yourself and someone you're in love with (and who loves you in return). That is the founding principle on the greatest and toughest of things in this life, that of marriage (again, all of this is my opinion, but bear with me).

I'm not discounting other relationships as being less, but human beings want companionship and they want it in the form of a significant other/spouse. Being best friends with a person is one thing, but there are some barriers that cannot be crossed in that role. There are things I can't do (despite being confident I could do them) and aren't my place to do in my role as a friend.

But in one's role as a significant other/spouse, the barriers are practically nonexistent. I'm not nor have I ever been either of those things, so I don't know for sure what the key is or where the permission is given to exceed those barriers. I just know, from observation and the experiences relayed to me by others, that such barriers don't really exist.

Out of all the relationships that can exist, that kind has the fewest limits. You can go the distance and dive into another person at a level that can't be matched anywhere else. That's what makes it so appealing and so demanding. Becoming involved with a person in that manner is a commitment of significant resources on multiple fronts.

Which is why, I think, Arlington so messed me up. Those people there who looked upon the graves of their loved ones, a lot of them lost a significant other/spouse and I absolutely can't imagine how devastating that is. To give yourself so fully to another person and to have them do the same, only to lose them to never see them again ... it's inhuman in a lot of ways. To ask someone to carry on like that when such a large part of themselves is missing is hard.

I'll be the first to admit that I'm probably the most inexperienced person you could ask about this. But what I lack in experience I make up for, a little, in observation. I've seen relationships between significant others/spouses break down and end. Sometimes quickly, others time slowly and almost always badly.

Just two days ago a friend of mine, who had just gotten into another relationship after having her last one end badly after many years, posted this article on Facebook. I read it and came away surprised that these things had to even be said ... but then again, with the way people treat these types of relationships nowadays, maybe these things really needed to be restated again.

I'll list the qualities here and my thoughts on them (and how the qualities apply to myself) as we go along, but a lot of this seems fairly "no duh" to me.

1. Honesty -- but not too much of it.

Basically, be honest about everything in your life to your girl, except appearances (which the article recommends you just let lie about cause we all look horrible sometimes and I completely agree with this).

I don't know why lying to your girlfriend/wife ever seems like a good idea but it's more commonplace than I'd like to admit with my male peers. Somewhere along the line, fiction supplanted the truth as the thing to tell the person you're involved with. Not sure why, honestly, but lying to someone you're in a relationship with is the quickest way to wreck things, IMO.

2. Understanding -- that way she doesn't feel the need to explain herself.

Strive to understand her. I feel like this one is probably one that needs to be repeated more often and loudly. I know a lot of guys who are involved with their girls and don't have nearly the understanding of said girls that I do. Whether that speaks more to me and how observant I am, or to the guys and how clueless they are, I don't know. Some guys just don't want to put forth the effort to understand women because women are amazingly complicated.

That's what makes them so amazing to be around, IMO. Simple isn't sexy. More men need to put forth the effort to understand the ladies they're involved with. I think a lack of understanding, a lack of a deeper connection on an emotional level, is what ultimately brings down relationships involving significant others/spouses.

3. Caring -- she needs to know she matters to you.

Pretty straightforward, right? Not as straightforward as many would like to think. People communicate caring differently and in a relationship, I feel like both parties are going to have to figure out how the other communicates caring. For girls, caring usually means listening to her and giving her a shoulder to cry on ... showing her support unwavering at all times.

For guys, they perceive caring as taking some form of action -- usually something physical, kissing or touching or sex. Men aren't usually wired to sit and listen for hours on end, but there are a few out there (I'm one of them I think ... either that or I have a much better attention span than I've given myself credit for).

4. Strength -- both physical and mental.

Women want to be in the presence of guys they find attractive. Based on what I've seen (and the sentiments are echoed in the article), women find men who are intelligent AND in good physical shape attractive. They want to be able to hold a conversation with you where you'll actually talk instead of just sitting there and nodding along.

The physical stuff is pretty self-explanatory. I doubt a woman wants to be with a dude who couldn't defend her if it became necessary.

5. Compassion -- show her you're capable of loving.

I think this falls in the same category as caring and understanding. No one likes a hardass, even if you're a complete stud of one. Being a mean cuss isn't going to enthuse anyone. I agree that guys are taught that compassion is a weakness and that being tough is preferable, but acting like an ass gets you nothing.

High school and most of college proved that to me. I was an ass. I got nothing.

6. Security -- financial and literal.

This is probably the one I take the most issue with. Having the guy be the breadwinner and bring home all the money is an outdated idea: in this world, you're both likely working and you're both making money. Financial security is a team sport nowadays.

Admittedly, I take the most issue with this because this is a weakness of mine. I don't make a lot of money so being able to provide financial security ... that's not a qualification I meet. I don't know if it'll ever be a qualification I meet.

Literal security I can absolutely readily provide. I'm in the best shape of my life and my capacity to protect is high.

7. Blind loyalty -- she wants to be the only woman he has eyes for. 

As guys, we suffer from wandering eyes. We're visually stimulated and wired that way and we suck at ignoring that part of ourselves often. For as far as men have come in terms of being civilized, we always have eyes and those eyes can get us into trouble.

Self-control, however, is something that guys lack. It's encouraged by society and the media to not practice self-control: why deny yourself something you can have easily? Most people don't bother denying themselves and what ends up happening is that people get hurt.

Guys cheat. Girls get cheated on.

I believe firmly that if you have an understanding of the woman in your life, if you truly get her, then you're going to have blind loyalty. Because, though I can't claim to know for sure what being in love is (I believe I have been in one situation but how do you know for sure if it was never meant to be?) but based on my feelings and findings, you should only see the person you're in love with as the one for you.

Other people may be prettier. Other people may be skinnier. Other people may be younger.

But there can't be another like the one you're in love with. Being in love is more about loving the soul, the character, of the person in question more than anything else, IMO.

Which brings me back to relationships. They are life. Without them existence doesn't matter and they are the foundation of everything you do. Marriage can't survive without a relationship between husband and wife. Family can't survive without a relationship between parent and child.

The best things in life are based off relationships.

Remember those people who have lost their relationships. They had what you have and they will never have it again. Take care of your relationships and the people in your life. If you do that, you should be all right in the end.

Thanks for reading folks. God Bless.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

On Memorial Day

I had the honor to visit Arlington National Cemetery today. I was with my closest friend, who was visiting one of her closest friends, Landon Jones, who had tragically lost his life in an accident this past fall. His co-pilot, Jon Gibson, also died in that same accident. These two served our country in the Navy. Both left behind wives and children who go on without them.

Normally, I wouldn't mention people by name. But in this case, I will, because they need to have names. They need to be more than just numbers or references.

Arlington National Cemetery has over 400,000 graves. Some with bodies. Some without. All of these graves represent a person who gave their life in defense of this nation. I realize that in this modern day and age there isn't a whole lot that Americans can agree on. We're at each other's throats over gay rights, abortion, religious freedoms, healthcare, and a multitude of other things.

But if there is one thing we should all be able to agree on, it's that the people who died defending our country should be held in high regard. That those they left behind, whether it be wives, husbands, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, or brothers ... those people should also be held in high regard. Those who died and those who continue on without them, those people should be honored and thanked every day of our life.

We, as a country, fail to do this. Especially on Memorial Day, a day that is designed for this. It's become a holiday, much like Christmas, where any greater meaning has been lost in the sales. In the tourism.

There were a lot of tourists at Arlington today. I understand they have to keep the funding going somehow and I get that this is the least of the bad solutions, but it's disconcerting to see people happily snapping pictures next to signs with the cemetery's name on it or grave markers with military personnel on it.

I saw a lot of people jogging/running through the cemetery like it was a track.

It's wrong. We've forgotten what this day means. Millions of men and women have given their lives to the cause of this nation and we've given them a day. Only a day. Think, for a moment, what we've given other people. Presidents Washington and Lincoln get a day. Martin Luther King gets a day.

Millions of Americans who died defending our freedoms get only a day.

The math doesn't really work, does it? Washington, Lincoln, and King all were pivotal figures, no doubt. Not a single one of them would have mattered without the Americans who have lost their lives in the trenches. In the fields. In the jungles. In the air. In the sea.

Washington, Lincoln, and King would doubtless agree with me. Not a single one of them ever had an inflated self-worth. They never elevated themselves above anyone else. The people after them did.

We, as a country, have made a critical error. We've elevated the wrong people. We've idolized the wrong people and in the process we have criminally under-appreciated those Americans who have served (living and dead) and who are serving.

We've turned a blind eye to them and rendered those that have passed from this planet an afterthought.

I was able to meet a few of the survivors today, specifically the wife and mother of Jon Gibson. They, like my closest friend, were hurting. They were grieving. They were shedding tears. They had a hole in them that I, and everyone else, was incapable of healing.

And any other day of the year, they are invisible. Forgotten about. But on Memorial Day Weekend, they are recognized for what they've lost: A human being, a husband, father, and son, who brought joy into their lives. Who gave them love and received love in return.

But we blissfully ignore them when it's not this weekend. When they don't walk around with bright red shirts or bows or ribbons or badges declaring for all those with eyes that they have lost. They have sacrificed.

And they are hurting so greatly. I could only offer them a few words, a hug, and a kind touch. That's it.

Nothing, really. We owe them so much more as country, as a people, and we refuse to give it to them. We sit here and debate whether people who work at McDonald's deserve to make 15 dollars an hour, but can't be concerned about how our veteran's are being treated. About how their families are being treated.

We forget and we do it, more or less, on purpose. We'd rather not think about it, perhaps out of guilt or shame. This is not a victimless crime and yet we do it. Every day.

We, as a people and nation, need to do more for those who are left behind. For those that have made the ultimate sacrifice. For those that serve in the military today and in the future.

Millions of Americans who have died get one day out of the year. Millions who have served get another day out of the year. Two days for millions of people who have undertaken one of the greatest causes you can ... who defend our freedoms and our rights and they don't know most of us.

They sacrifice time. They sacrifice relationships. They sacrifice their health. They sacrifice their lives.

And we ignore them most days of the year.

It's time to make those left behind and those who continue to serve visible, not invisible. It's time to give them credit for all they do. We owe them that.

It's not about the BBQs or the weekend. It's not about getting time to catch up on movies or do yardwork. It's not about getting a holiday.

This Memorial Day, don't forget to remember those who sacrificed and who are left behind. Don't forget to remember that they are people and not just numbers.

Landon Jones and Jon Gibson were husbands, fathers, and sons. They died for our country. They have left behind wives, sons, and daughters. They have left behind fathers, mothers, sisters, and brothers. They have left behind friends and family.

We can't fill the hole they've left. But we can remember them and strive to take care of those they can no longer care for themselves. If we are truly as great a country and people as we claim to be, this is the least of what we can do. 

Thank you to those who have sacrificed so much for myself and my loved ones. Thank you to the families who have lost so much. I can never repay you. I can't heal your wounds. I can't stop the pain.

But I can remember.

God Bless.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Talking to Jesus

*Warning, deep thoughts follow. Profanity likely, brutal honesty all but assured.*

"Tonight the simplest meditation there is. Take some time for yourself. Imagine sitting next to Jesus and share your day with him. Be honest. And know that he's listening." This is from Father James Martin, a prominent Catholic who posts stuff like this on Facebook.

Tonight's meditation has struck a cord with me because I was wondering about lost causes. I was researching St. Jude earlier this night and in reading about him (and killing my laptop battery in the process) I found that this guy and I, we might be made for one another.

When I become Catholic (hopefully next Easter, God willing), I get to choose a confirmation saint. And St. Jude is the first one I've come across that's really spoken to me. He's about lost causes and desperate cases. I feel like both and more most days.

The last few days my head's been lost in multiple dark rabbit holes. It happens sometimes where I get trapped in a cycle of thoughts that I just can't seem to break out of. So, taking Father Martin's meditation, here's my attempt at laying out my day to Jesus.

****

You ever tire of just seeing yourself? I get that way sometimes. I know everyone does at some point. This feeling has been prevalent a lot the last few days. I feel like I'm a waste and I know that I'm not, because you surely didn't die on the cross for a waste, but it still feels like that.

I'm fat, one ... okay, not REALLY fat. Just not at the weight I want. The weight I want might be unachievable, I don't know, but I feel like I'm failing at the one thing I thought I was good at. I was good at losing weight and now all I seem to do is just ... stay. Stay the same. It hasn't been a good winter/spring for me and now as summer approaches I'm sorta-panicking.

It's not like my clothes don't fit. They fit. They don't fit as well as I'd like, but they fit and I'm fine with that for now. I just worry about how all this plays out if I don't make my goal before June 1st. That's the pretty-sure-it's-summer date. June 8th is the for-sure-it's-summer date.

Why am I worried? You can't get by these days without presenting a decent appearance. Attractiveness is judged harshly and quickly and the judging process is pretty universal. Everyone does it and they do it during the summer. When guys are in swimtrunks alone and girls are in bikinis. Most of the body is on full display and there's no room for error.

Yes, I realize I'm starting out from a severe disadvantage. I have a sad sack of loose skin stuck on my stomach, ugly beyond belief stretch marks that are all over that portion and are very visible. My skin is a disaster there. I could cover up and I might, but it seems cowardly.

I did it to myself, Jesus. Shouldn't I just accept the judgment with little complaining? I don't know.

But the point is that judgement will come and there's nothing you or I can do about. That's right, you can't prevent others from judging me, not as long as we have free will. Unless that has an expiration date or a contractual loophole, in which case do feel free to intervene on my behalf.

I will be judged and I fail. I don't look like someone who's gonna be 26 (why am I still alive again?) in October. I look like I'm a teenager or someone in their very early 20s. I should be at my physical peak based on how I look but I missed it. I will never know what my peak looks like. I can achieve, generously, 75 percent of that. Probably 66 percent is the max I can achieve.

I'm not attractive to the opposite sex, not according to any evidence I have. That seems unfair but really it seems just damned mean. If I was going to be unattractive no matter what, why allow me to lose weight in the first place? The whole "God has a plan" thing continues to bug me.

The beach is coming. Judgement is coming. Failure is coming. Soon. It'll be here soon and I don't want to deal with it but I will out of the very desperate hope that someone out there is forgiving of me and that someone is a single female of the Catholic persuasion.

Oh yes, I hear the "You must first help yourself" argument and I'm working on that. Scheduling is a bitch some days, all right? But this is about my thoughts today and I'm not worried about that.

I'm worried about my mind. You dealt with all the ways we human beings can sin, right? Right. How do you keep your mind from getting lost in the impure? Dude, I'm a male and we're visually stimulated and the world is rife with imagery EVERYWHERE. I admire the beauty from an aesthetic standpoint and I envy it to a degree.

But they hit my eyes and then I see them in some form/combination during the night. It's when I close my eyes that things get bad, when I have no control. I can't believe for an instant that this lack of control during the sleeping hours is just acceptable. My mind, unconscious or not, is my mind. No one elses.

I feel like I'm the worst 25-year-old ever for even asking the question. Most guys my age, my peers, have already engaged in some serious making out with girls, have fondled them, have had sex with them, have been in a relationship with them.

I have done none of this. Be honest with me, isn't that just a little bit on the side of wrong? Shoot straight with me: am I defective? Honestly, tell me if I am so I can just start accepting it now.

I don't want to be the 40-year-old Virgin. I realize that's a really poor example, but this is what it's boiling down to.

I want a wife. I want kids. I want the other side of the coin, my partner in the duet, the person that makes life make more sense. I get that pinning all my hopes on that is unrealistic and probably wrong, but the bottom line is I want love. Companionship.

And the way to achieve that, in this day and age, is to be attractive. Which I'm not. I'm not attractive on any level.

Really, look hard here. I take forever to warm up to people. I don't function normally. I am so socially inexperienced that toddlers roll their eyes at me. I'd rather hang out with kids in the single-digits of age than people my age at parties.

What possible purpose could a confounding creation like myself have?

I think I'm ill-equipped for this, honestly. I'm an envious person who has an overactive imagination and can't help but think how I'd do things better. How I'd be better with other people (who are already involved with others) and how I'd do things differently.

That's pride, right? Has to be. Pride is my downfall and I wish I could kill it almost as much as I wish I could kill the loose skin.

There's too much shit in me and I feel like I'm wasting your time and the time of everyone else by talking about it. The deep, dark rabbit holes are mine to get lost in. No one else needs to be part of that doomed expedition.

But I feel better getting it out there, so thanks for that.

****

Good night and God Bless.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

One Strange Holy Week

Holy Week, 2014. One man embarks on a journey unparalleled. Full of self-discovery, dumb luck, and insanity, he goes from one place to another in the strangest of ways. 

At this point I wish I could say the above was an over-exaggeration, but really it's merely a slight exaggeration. If that. This has been my first Holy Week as the Unofficial Official Converting Catholic (I made up the the title). I'm not officially a Catholic, though I will be (Lord willing) by next Easter. But if this Holy Week is to be the norm for all future Holy Weeks (and let's note that I never really celebrated Holy Week as a week before, but merely just Easter), then I may need to invest heavily in wine. Lots of wine.

I just need to put this out there because there doesn't seem to be any other way to tell the story otherwise. I can tell bits and pieces and have over the course of this week, but I suck at telling stories verbally most of the time. No, I'm more of a written story type of guy and here I can tell the whole story. Maybe on digital paper everything will make more sense. Or maybe my life is just as insane as I am. We'll start from the beginning.

SUNDAY

I was Lector this Sunday and I got to get all dressed up, go to Mass, and read from the big book on the podium. I was Second Reader (little pressure) and I was the guy who didn't have a long passage. But I certainly had the bulk of the reading to do when I read The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ (I think?). I was the narrator and, though that seems to be a minor role in most stories, it isn't so much in the Catholic Church. I had a TON of stuff to read. I flubbed some of it (notably Jesus falling prostate) and felt I didn't do such a good job (despite nearly two hours of practice). People were like "Oh, you were fine" and "God has a sense of humor" and "There's no such thing as a perfect liturgy."

And I had to agree with that. I didn't disagree, though I certainly begrudgingly agreed. After service there was a meeting to discuss The Busy Person's Retreat, which was starting that next day. This is something that I had never heard of in the Baptist church (and as far as I'm aware doesn't exist) and basically boils down to a one-on-one session with a spiritual director/companion one day for a few days at a time. This director/companion would help guide you on the journey and that journey, this time, was asking the question "Who am I?"

I wasn't convinced when I was at the meeting that this was for me. I've been trying to answer that question for years now with little success. I was non-committed during the meeting. By the end, I was in and the Sister (she was a Sister of the Humility of Mary) was kind enough to work me into her schedule. I had never done anything like this before and I was skeptical. I was kind of scared, to be honest, simply because this had the potential to reveal a lot of things only those closest to me know.

But I did it. Not because I was brave or adventurous. Because I had the tingling feeling in my brain. The kind that says that something important is happening and you need to take notice. I had that feeling and then a voice popped into my head saying, "I should do this." So, I listened.

Sunday night ended with me half-watching/half-singing along to Frozen while chatting with my best friend online. Little did I know what was to come.

MONDAY

Monday began as it usually does for me: early. Unpleasantly so. I didn't get back to late and I didn't fall asleep till late, so Monday wasn't a very happy morning. I did what I needed to, took care of my duties, and then promptly fell back to asleep for a few hours. Though it wasn't a restful few hours.

Then I went to see the Sister. I had never done anything like this before so I was nervous. I had read over the material I was supposed to reflect on for Day 1 and felt like I had a bit of understanding of it, but didn't find it very revolutionary. It was just so-so. It was Monday and I didn't have high expectations.

So, when we got to our meeting place (a small chapel where I and others had prayed the Rosary a few times before), I wasn't expecting a lot but I was hopeful for something. We started out with this prayer:

Loving God, give me a heart that listens, a mind that pays attention, a soul that waits, ears that hear, and eyes that see. Amen.   

It was different as far as openings are concerned. More so, as the Sister explained to me, this was a structured thing for her. She did something like this in every session with everyone, which meant I was operating under some form of routine. I didn't know it, she did, but the fact that there was a structure in place put me a bit at ease.

She then explained to me what she wanted this to be; rather than have her direct me, she wanted to act as my companion. As my guide. In order to do that, she wanted a bit of a life history. I had already discussed some of it previously with her the night before, but she wanted more. As most of you know at this point, I always have more.

So, I explained how I ended up as the Unofficial Official Converting Catholic and how that process, really, began when I decided to lose weight. All my decisions over the last three years can be traced back to that one moment. The Sister was blown away by my description of the last three years and the journey I went on. I told how certain people in my life had set the example for me, in more ways than one, and how I had come to value those people as family of the highest order.

The description of the last three years took about half the session, but by the end of it she came to a few conclusions. Firstly, I was a loyal and committed individual. I was stubborn but had "rootedness" (a word I had never come across before). I was unique, not odd (her argument was that I tended to see my traits in a negative light, which I can't really deny) and that I tended to use a lot of descriptors for myself that were very strong.

I was blunt, essentially.

All these things I agreed with. Part of me, while this was going on, felt relieved that she saw this as something that wasn't negative. It's not as though I regaled her with many positive tales of the traits (to be honest, I can't remember many positive tales at all). Part of me was disappointed that I wasn't being called out for being a complete ass or being lamented for having no sense. I wanted her to see wrong in me because I certainly see it (and feel it) a lot of days.

But she didn't. I'm not sure why. Maybe because she was trying to help and decided to ignore these things. Maybe because she simply didn't see them at all.

Whatever the case, after the long soliloquy from me, she gave me a slip of paper and asked me to jot down some marker points for my spiritual journey. There were a few. I've traveled around quite a bit and my journey has done the same. There were periods where I was alive and a solid period where I was dead.

I'm trying to be alive again, so to speak, and it's tough to remember how to live. Was I ever really into it, though? I don't think so. I operated on spiritual highs, not sustained consistency. Being alive in it is different than living it and that's what I'm attempting to do now.

At the end of the session, we prayed again and I exited feeling ... unburdened in a way. I'm not sure why I thought or felt like that. Maybe because this was just as much a spiritual discussion as it was a counseling session. But Monday ended much the same way as Sunday: chatting online with my best friend and our conversation, through no fault of my own, ended up on God. On why he forgives us and on why we're allowed to be forgiven in the first place, really.

It was a question I would ask the next day.

TUESDAY

Tuesday was busy for me, more so than I planned. I attended Chrism Mass (beautiful if not a bit long) and then had my session with the Sister. She said I cleaned up very nicely (thanks?) and then we proceeded to our opening prayer before diving into reflections on yesterday. The Sister told me then that, when she thought about the journey I had described to her over the last three years or so, she drew a parallel to Jesus.

Jesus had a journey over a three year period that took him to many places and presented him with many challenges, things that he may not have necessarily wanted to face but did so because he loved us. The Sister argued that my journey was of a similar sort, one where I was presented with challenges and had undergone great change, much like Jesus.

That was the first and only time I can ever recall being compared to Jesus Christ. It was disturbing to me and still is now. I don't like it, though I see a few parallels, I certainly don't seen enough to justify that type of comparison.

Day Two of the sessions was about "Why I do what I do?" and that was yet another relevant question to me. I've been trying to determine why I do what I do for years, the last three or so (as with the other question). I don't know for sure. But the Sister and I discussed why Jesus did what he did and I then went about and threw out my ideas on why I do what I do.

The Sister came out with the idea that I have a very strict sense of justice. I see right and I see wrong. I see these things and I see them in very strict terms that don't allow for much grey and that's a quality that makes me passionate about some things. This had been pointed out to me a few weeks before by my best friend, which was strange that independently two people would reach this conclusion.

I see God as a creator. As a friend. As someone who has a sense of humor and is compassionate. But I have problems with God in terms of justice. I take issue with his sense of justice because it doesn't match mine. People I know and love, those I care dearly about, have suffered what I see as injustices and I want that to stop. I want them to be corrected and most, if not all, I can't even begin to affect.

God can. But he chooses not to a lot of times and that frustrates me. He has a plan, he has a way, and I have little understanding of it really.

The session came to a close, I went out and tried to absorb what I had learned. I took to writing to get some ideas out into the open and ended up finishing a series of fanfic novels I'd been working on sense 2008. It was an empty, regretful finish. I missed it then, I miss it now.

I then proceeded to a bible study, then came back to the Newman Center, before heading out for the night. I was anticipating my night being fairly low key till the next morning when I had another session with the Sister.

Instead, I got a phone call from a weird number that I didn't recognize. I ignored it at first, then got the call again and then I answered. Turned out it was my best friend on the other end of the line, calling from her computer. She needed some help.

She asked. I said yes. There really isn't much more than that to it, honestly. I was going to say yes no matter what pretty much. My schedule is never locked in, thankfully. I always maintain flexibility. So, I told her I'd help out and be there at her place ASAP. That entailed a six hour drive from Ohio to Virginia, which I made. That entailed a day of helping out without sleep, which I did.

The week since has proven that my qualities are my qualities. I am what I am, which is a strange mixture of things. I can't tell you the ratios. I can't explain to you why, really. I can guess. I don't think change is possible, at least in any great way, and I am lucky enough to have friends and family in my life that are very forgiving of me. That allow me to be me without too much issue.

There is a trust there that I can't begin to describe nor can I properly convey. But it's there and it's one of the greatest trusts that can be form between people.

The questions of "Who I am?" and "Why I am the way I am?" remain unanswered, for the most part. I wonder if they need to be answered at all, really. Will the answers help or hurt? I feel like they'll do both.

Holy Week has been a strange ordeal.

I wouldn't change it for the world.

Thanks for reading, folks. God Bless. 



  













Thursday, March 20, 2014

Day Sixteen of Lent

In my attempts to better understand the Catholic faith and my own journey converting, I'll be spending this Lent doing a daily reflection of things I've learned. The faith encourages reflections on subjects like this (even the Pope reflects!) so I figure I'll reflect through writing. As always, my understanding of this is noobish so forgive any wrong conclusions and do feel free to correct me where needed. Here we go. 

The blackbook today focused on when Judas betrayed Jesus, leading a mob to him and having him arrested. The author makes the point that a close relationship gone sour -- whether between a husband and a wife, parents and grown children -- is a sad story. That's true, but more than sad it usually ends badly. When you're close to someone you know them intimately. Their fears. Their dark secrets. Their dreams. Their wants. Their feelings.

You know so much about them that, if the relationship goes sour, that intimate knowledge can become dangerous. It's easy to fall into the mindset that when things go bad with someone you've been close to, that you can use all those secrets and things to nuke them out of existence. To ruin them.

I've had some falling outs with people I've been close to before. The temptation to nuke everything out of existence, to draw as much blood as I can before we're done, is great for me. I've never done it but I've gotten close a few times. I know that the end result will only be bad, that it'll only make things more toxic, but being angry blinds you to a lot of things. I have no idea how Jesus felt when he was betrayed by Judas, but I imagine he was a little angry.

He just accepted it and moved on. That's a lesson I can definitely apply to my life.

Thanks for reading, folks. God Bless.