When things were going smoothly in my life; when I was under the false illusion that things were hunky dory, I became a lazy man enjoying the comforts. I ate good, rich foods, I drank wine and I indulged in all the fine luxuries of someone enjoying his life. I had an extended period of this type of unchallenged paradise… ten years in fact… enough years to take a fit man and turn him into a bloated, self-indulgent slob who avoided looking in the mirror. That was what life was about; right? Enjoying it?
When jeans quit fitting, I start buying sweats and pants without belts and larger, looser shirts. I angled myself in the mirror when I stepped out of the shower to not notice so much of the overhanging gut and the legs that had taken on the girth of tree trunks. If I felt a moment of anxiety about the creature I was becoming… I poured myself another luxurious glass of wine and let it melt my concerns into an homogenous blur as I tuned in to something on Netflix and sprawled on the sofa with my snacks.
But beneath this blur was the realization that my “good life” was turning me into something I didn’t recognize. I’d been a fit person my whole life. A bodybuilder at one time in my early twenties. People had always said I was “beautiful”. That was their word. For a time I basked in it; actually thought it was a gift eternal and nothing I could do would take it away. I’d deluded myself in the daily routine of middle-class comfort.
Of course, all paradises are fiction. It’s only a matter of time before reality can’t be blocked by a third or fourth glass of wine and a gigantic slab of blood-soaked prime rib. Life goes wrong. That’s what Life does. There are no perpetually calm oceans or sunny days or temperate Blue Lagoon breezes. Storms blow in… things get uprooted… the calm is gone and you are left standing with raw reality the way I was when my comfortable life suddenly came to an end. I had to look in the mirror for the first time in years and evaluate what the “good easy life” had done to me. The overweight man in the mirror that no one would call “beautiful”. Not only my comfortable life was gone, but I’d allowed it to gradually drain away the essence of who I was along with it.
I remember the moment very clearly because I was talking aloud to myself as I looked down at a slovenly middle-aged man I didn’t recognize. “What the fuck have I done?” I said. I repeated it over and over like the horror of the realization would lessen with the sound of my voice. It didn’t.
And I became ANGRY. Not at my situation that had forced me to finally see myself for what I’d became, but at myself for allowing the comfort of that situation to feed on me as I fed on it.
Now my comfortable life was gone…. and “I” was too. This was unacceptable. I seethed with rage. I would not have this. This would not be me. This would not be my life. I would not look in the mirror and see this creature. I would NOT live in this horrible thing I’d turned into.
The situation became so untenable I began immediately tossing out all the things of “comfort” that had robbed me of me: the rich foods, the alcohol, the weekends on the sofa doing nothing but watching television. I slowly began working out. I was in such bad shape a trainer/friend came by every night and we started by taking midnight walks around the neighborhood to get me used to exercise again. And it was defeating. DEFEATING! I’d grown so out of shape my legs rubbed together and chafed when I walked. It hurt like hell and made me cry which in turn made me even angrier. I put bandages on the blisters….and then I walked EVEN further. The next night….even further… the night after that…MORE. My anger compelled me to attack what I did not like and change it.
As the weight began to come off, I began to jog with him. Then we’d meet at the park and do calisthenics. I gradually began seeing muscles reappear underneath the dwindling layers of fat.
When I was forced to move and my trainer could no longer join me, it didn’t lessen my resolve. All I had to do was look in the mirror and my loathing refreshed itself enough to drive me out the door and onto the tracks, running. I go to where I could run a mile nonstop. Then a mile and a half… and in a year, five miles. The year after that I was running ten miles or more a day. I had dropped over fifty pounds. I had gone down four sizes in pants. My face had returned… the jawline I remembered. I ran a half marathon that year.
Four years later I can tell you that I was running fifteen miles a day without hardly sweating. I was back down to a weight I hadn’t seen since high school. I looked younger again. But more than that I felt like myself again. I didn’t feel like a slug or someone sliding into the obscurity of middle age sightless and unseen by those around me. I look in the mirror and it’s WOW!
The first point of this is the storm that wreaked havoc in my life that took all my comforts away… that made me ANGRY… made me do something about what I did not like in my life. It made me fight. It made me change…. and I accomplished something that I had thought was impossible.
The second point of this is the majority of us are all feeling this despair of a similar defeat with a new and most vile administration threatening us. I don’t know how many times I have seen people start sentences discussing it with phrases like “I’m afraid of…” or “what I fear is”… and then expressing how impossible the situation feels. After all, we had a halcyon eight years of Obama and we thought our perfect little Paradise would sail smoothly on after him. But the storm moved in and along with it the shock….. and the anger…..
Anger is a tool. Use it… I did…. Nothing is impossible…We will be victorious!