Friday, September 28, 2012

Mental Blankness

The weird thing about getting old and fat is that it seems to happen overnight. You're going along in your usual not very exciting world, certainly not very dramatic in any way, and you attend a school reunion and your high school flame starts to snicker at first then breaks down in tears out of disappointment and embarrassment when she/he sees you. Or, not to be unnecessarily vulgar, but to be direct, your first flame's significant other points at you and loudly exclaims, "You fucked that?" Or perhaps you just look in the mirror on your 67th birthday and ask, "What the hell just happened?"

You'll have to trust me in this, you didn't age or get chubby overnight, it just seems that way.You have to have been indulging in food and drink and a variety of other activities for a long time before you get to be a curmudgeon that is 40 to 50 or more pounds overweight.

How do I know? It happened to me. No excuse for the curmudgeon part (i.e., being an ugly ill-tempered old person full of resentment and stubborn notions), but I used the excuse (among other excuses) of breathing problems  such as: being an early smoker until I quit when I was 21, being exposed to a variety of toxic substances including daily exposure to formaldehyde, asbestos, and smoke inhalation in a disastrous fire while in the Navy, a collapsed lung, pneumonia, scarring on my lungs from who knows what, to name a few. Still, until my mid to late forties I was a dynamo of energy, could out work any three people combined, and was almost anorexic, or as I refereed to myself as "wiry."

Alas, as my metabolism changed, I sat in a car or at my desk for twelve to fourteen hours a day, quit playing tennis, became more sedate, had much-much-much less sex (for five years or more) and ate much more fast food, drank wine everyday, and snacked my head off as my waist-line expanded all of which contributed to my breathing problems among, as anyone can imagine, other hang-ups. This daily never ending circle spiral downward and weight upward formed a chubby, growing old before my time, somewhat sex-starved, already gray-haired man by my forty-eighth birthday. I'm not complaining as I chose to live the life I was living and forty-eight seems so young to me now. Also, as my first wife and I separated and eventually got a divorce, I remarried and started a new life with another career and much happier circumstances, except for the one thing which was simply my expanding waist-line and chubby 'stubbornly' cute butt cheeks (such a vision). Is that three things? And did I just admit to being a fat-ass?

Age progresses relentlessly onward toward oblivion, unless you believe in an afterlife, while you fail to notice life pass you by, watch your money disappear into other hands, do not take resolute action, and live your life in self-doubt. The old adage, "He who hesitates is lost" is true and just so you know I always give credit where credit is due, my thoughts go back to 'Cato' (1713) when he wrote "Swift and resolute action leads to success; self-doubt is a prelude to disaster."

When I lived in Plano, Texas a couple years back, after retirement (age 63 to 65), I started writing and suddenly, desperately, wanted to be healthier and have more energy, to start life anew, or to give life to my old life, so to speak. Besides my writing (a Ernest Hemingway moment), I started a walking regimen (a Charlie Chaplin moment) and taking a series of vitamins (a Robert Cummings moment). For the very young or uniformed: Hemingway was an excellent American writer, Chaplin was a comedian famous for his funny walk, and Cummings was an actor famous for gulping down massive amounts of vitamins. I attempt (unsuccessfully) to write like Hemingway, I walk like a duck, and at one time I gulped down massive amounts of USANA brand supplements, hence the comparisons. At about this time I went from roughly 203 to 193 lbs. at my lowest. (Since my scale was three lbs. off to my bad my weight was really 206 to 196 low). After a week or two at this low weight for me, I rumbled around 196 to 200 lbs. (199 to 203) for a year in Plano up to, and including the first, month or two after a move to Chandler, Arizona. 

After a brief stint of travel and work to a chilly Seattle (at a weight of 196, really 199-200) with the excuses of getting older, the hotter weather in Arizona, and a book completed and published but evidently not to anyone's liking, not even my own, I eventually lost motivation or any inspiration whatsoever, to work, walk, wonk down vitamins, or write. Culminating by May of this year, on my birthday, my present to myself came to be the dual goals of achieving a certain "mental blankness" and an accurate weight of obesity (a new digital scale showing 211 lbs.) as I wondered optimistically if I was to old to start a career as a Sumo wrestler. My next thought was Fiddler on the Roof and it was 1964 and I started humming the tune to "If I Were a Rich Man." Don't ask me why? I know to the reader it seems kind of overly-dramatic of me as I became a self-indulgent 'whiny-mess' (the quality or state of being whiny and fat) and depression set deeply in to my psyche showing a complete lack of character on my part as truthfully, I can't sing although I can carry a tune while humming.

(Note: In my novel, Drunken Duck, I use the term "nothingness" instead of "mental blankness."

As I stopped 'doing' things I indulged in more food and wine, became even more sedate watching movies on NetFlix (deciding never to attend a movie theater again), and indulgently pursued my new goal of achieving "mental blankness." The ultimate of this goal is forgetting the past, wallowing in the present, and denying any future . . . however, being a catatonic schizophrenic or a lazy-fat-slob is a wee-bit too self-indulgent, even for me; I have my self-deprecating sense of humor to see me through "the best of times and worst of times, through my wisdom and foolishness" . . . a reference to not only my self-worth, as charming as it is, but to Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities, as well.  

On July 2nd, it came as a revelation to my wee-bit of a brain, similar to my brain exploding and having a stroke, that only a fool worries or becomes depressed about things he/she can no longer influence. Since I've been a gullible fool most of my life, and a mental obsessive-depressive since the publication of my book (signaling the end of my 'novel' career), especially during the months of May and June of this year, the one thing, besides changing my negative evaluation of people, objects, events, activities, ideas, or just about anything in my environment i.e., my attitude not affect, I could also influence my weight.

A distinction is necessary here as it is common to incorrectly define attitude as affect which is associated more with discrete emotions or overall arousal and not being pissed-off at the world. Affect in psychology or philosophy or common-language-use is generally understood to be distinct from attitude as a measure of change-ability or favor-ability, negatively speaking if you get my drift, I digress.

So  screaming silently to myself, "to hell with my histrionics and bad-manners," I started to change my life-style with a change in attitude (no, I did not get a lobotomy), food habits, and some modest exercise. I may still be a curmudgeon  and in a "woe is me whiny-mess" Eeyore state of mind but, I can influence whether I open my mouth or not and what I say, write, or eat (if not what I think or dream).

I've lost ten percent of my body weight since July, have become slightly more muscle-toned, especially around my back muscles (wall-push-ups), calves, thighs, and butt (recumbent bike). I lost at least two inches off my belly (less sugar and more pelvic-thrusts), I have an increase in energy, and my breathing, although not by any means perfect, is easier.

The moral of my story? "You may walk like a duck, be depressed as an old grey-gray stuffed donkey, and be the most foolish-ugly-old-fat-bastard or bitch in existence, but whatever your unlovable personality or dire circumstance, you owe it to yourself to breathe a little easier and make-believe Winnie-the-Pooh is your best friend."

You can quote me on that.

See some of my older posts on my journey of weight loss.

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