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Thursday, November 13, 2014

Can Writing Help Save Your Soul?

I'm participating in NaNoWriMo 2014, and since last Sunday I've been killing it. I nixed the project I originally started working on (a sci-fi story that was a bit like Star Trek) and jumped back into my original fantasy fiction project, something I've been trying to complete for over three years.

I've made a lot of progress on it (up to 18K), but an observation has occurred to me as I've written: I'm making pretty good decisions. Not just in-story but in life.

And so I'm forced to ask: Can writing help save your soul? I struggle, like everyone else, with making good decisions on a daily basis. I'm human so my natural inclination is to screw up repeatedly, blame someone else, and keep screwing up. We're all wired that way.

I make an effort NOT to blame others for my mistakes and blame myself, which isn't a great thing all the time (it has drawbacks as a strategy, I grant this) but I feel like these last five days, I've been hitting things right. Doing things right.

And, on reflection, I feel like this is a trend and not a random occurrence. I've had other times when I've been on ridiculous writing tears (that one time when I stayed up for two days straight to write down 22K worth of material for a project that will never see the light of day but made me happy all the same) and, while writing, my decisions just seem to be better.

I'm wondering if that's a common thing or just a me thing (the possibility of it being a me thing is high). When I'm writing as I am, knocking out at least a chapter a day and developing characters (and backstories -- I have an addiction), I just tackle life. Work has been going good, my food choices have been good (the scale shows progress, finally), my personal decision making has been good, my soul feels good.

I realize I'm human and have been sinning every day over the last five days, but I don't feel like I've chosen to sin as often. I don't feel like I've made a choice to disregard what I know is right to do what I know is wrong, just for the short-term benefits.

I just want to get done with work, chores, bills, life, and get back to writing. I hold that up as my carrot and it's worked pretty well so far.

My other thought on this is as follows: if writing can help save your soul, maybe that's why the saints did so much writing. It seems like every saint did some writing and maybe this is why, maybe there's something inherently good to it, I don't know.

I just know that, while writing I feel good about the decisions I make, seem to think with a clearer head, and just seem to be "in the zone" so to speak.

Let me know what you think. Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Swimsuits, Sad Balloons, and Wedding Nights

*Brutally honest post follows. Be forewarned.*

I hate wearing swimsuits and I  was remind why when I had one of those "Holy crap, what happened here?" moments as I was looking at myself in the mirror this morning.

I start every morning the same way, without reprieve. I can't not do it (even on vacation). I wake up, use the bathroom, and weight myself on my scale. Yes, the same scale I bought (at $40) when I originally began my weight loss journey back in July of 2011. It's been over three years since and my scale has had a few scares (notably a time where I thought it died in February of 2012) but it's still around. It's seen me at my highest weight (273+) and my lowest weight (138) and it sees me now.

This morning I woke up, stripped down, and analyzed myself. As I do every morning, probably compulsively. It's probably horrible for me, but I like to keep track of the data. I keep a tally in my head, I reflect on images in my mind, I even take pictures with my phone if I find something that stands out and needs to be compared down the line.

The analysis of this morning wasn't favorable: I started a new job a little over a week ago and, predictably, my weight has shot up a bit. I'm a little over 150 as opposed to being a bit under it (in the 147-149 range) before my job. I chalk that up to poor food choices (store discounts are the devil) and a new sleep pattern (which is erratic due to the hours). Things are out of whack on my end.

And this morning was the first morning where I saw my stomach and thought to myself "That looks worse" in quite awhile. I saw it and immediately felt hatred and repulsion.

I put those feelings down quickly, though, and instead focused on what was different. I skipped dinner the night before in an effort to undo some of the damage from earlier in the week, but the results were not as good as I expected. I was disappointed by that, disappointed in myself.

I'm slipping. I can feel it, just a little, and it's the worst time of the year to slip. I've got to be in control during the holiday season. The three worst food holidays are near: Thanksgiving (gorge yourself to sleep day), Christmas (presents and cookies!), and New Year's (I swear I'll work this off after today).

I slipped up last year. And the year before. It seems inevitable and my weight has crept up to where it is now after my low point of 140ish. Now, some have told me I look better and that it's a good weight for me.

Personally, I don't like it. I'd rather be under 145 than above it, and I'd certainly rather be under 150 than above it (even slightly so now). My clothes still all fit fine but I see the difference, I feel it. I hate it.

Over the summer I attempted to lose more weight in a last ditch effort to get rid of the sad sack of loose skin that sits around my stomach. I wanted to get to 128 where, by my calculations, my body fat percentage would have been low enough to finally tighten up that area. But that effort met with failure as I was unable to drop below 145, my body having gotten used to that weight thanks to my previous holiday failures.

And, this morning, I was confronted with the reality that there was no way, at my current weight, that I'd get rid of it. That reality was confirmed in early October in a frank conversation with my closest friend and I'm still not okay with that. I'm a little okay with it, but not all the way.

The above illustration is a perfect summation of my day as I've been hovering around this issue in my mind, from my own feelings about myself, to a character's feelings about herself, to the feelings of others about themselves (at work and in my own life).

I've blogged about it in the past here and here. They basically say similar things.

And this post will probably be in that vein. But the subject matter is important to me because I want a solution: not just for myself, but for everyone I know who wishes their body was something better. Who, because it's out of their control, can't change their body to what they want. Fate or circumstance or God conspires against them.

I can make no such claims, sadly. I did this to myself. I became a giant fatass, I lost the weight really fast, I caused my body to react the way it did. I didn't listen to others, I pressed on stubbornly, and my reminder of all this stares at me in the mirror every day.

It sucks, I won't lie. It sucks worse when I try to do a pushup and watch as the skin hangs like a sad balloon. It's horrible looking and I'm worried; scratch that, terrified of what a woman might think seeing it.

It hangs there and that's going to be an issue when sex comes into the equation. I'm a virgin (at 26 ... only 14 years away from 40 ... I terrified of that, too) and have so little experience with women that a third grader likely has more. I don't know what I'm doing. I don't know when I ever will (or if it's even possible).

But, theoretically, hypothetically when I do meet that woman who is able to see past my numerous flaws and put up with me, we'll get married.

But what happens on the wedding night?

I won't be winning, that's for sure. Sex, as I understand it, is the physical/emotional connect of a man and woman. And that physical side of it can be done in a number of ways (Kama Sutra anyone?) but, as I understand it (and correct me if I'm wrong) there's the basic it "One atop and one on bottom" positioning.


So, if I end up on top ... well, we get sad balloon hanging down.


Okay, so it's not a great thing to think about and it's WAY in the future (I hope?) but it's still a consideration that has to be made and, as it stands right now, it's ugly. I've spoken to people who have had surgery for the loose skin such as mine, and the results are not as I hoped: it solves the literal problem, but there's still scarring there (unless you pay for SUPER good surgery which, as one would expect, costs a ton).

So ... surgery is out of the picture and it's just me and my loose skin right now.

And I don't know what to do. I want to try and lose more weight, get skinnier in a vain attempt to kill it. If I can do that, maybe it finally tightens ... maybe it finally dies.

But that's fantasy, not reality. Working out has strengthened the muscles under it, but not to the point where the loose skin goes away: it only hangs slightly less.

What on God's green Earth is a woman going to think about it when she sees it?

"Hold on Zach, if this theoretical woman is your wife than she's going to love you no matter what," you say. True point ... idealistically. But, is that really the truth? I've admitted that, should I find a wife, I'd like her to care about her health and take care of herself. The body is a temple, remember?

At the same time, I have to hold myself to that standard.

"So, you'd judge her harshly if she had the loose skin issue like you?" you ask.

And to that I say ... no. I'd get it if that was the case but here's the thing: so few people have done what I've done and most who have are married or in long-term relationships and did it partly for their partners.

I did it for myself and I did it as a last-ditch effort with desperation fully in play. Losing weight wasn't a noble thing for me, it was a very selfish thing and I really want to say that, because I lost the weight, I have used my physical improvements to improve the lives of others but I can't be sure that's the case.

The point is, if I were a woman in this situation, I'd be a bit repulsed by sad balloon loose skin.

I know I'm repulsed by it, so why wouldn't a woman be? We're physical creatures, us humans, for better and worse. We interact with our world and each other physically and I can't for the life of me justify anyone interacting with me in a sexual fashion with my hanging loose skin. It's just ... ugly.

Which is why I want a solution so badly and why I'll desperately attempt this weekend to lose weight and try to reach that supposed solution, even if it's a total fantasy that borders on delusion. What else can I do? What other actions are there to take?

I understand what this is and what it represents ... and I hate that I understand it, I wish I could naively believe that a woman would see past it and not care but how can you not care about something that's going to be so very apparent on a wedding night?

Maybe it's too deep a question to put out on the Internet. Maybe it's too deep a question to even ask aloud but I want to know, I want it out there because the solution may be out there. Someone may have it.

I don't and I'm sorry I don't.

Thanks for reading. God Bless.