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Monthly Archives: October 2010

The other day, I googled the definition of a word.  I love Google.  I love the ability to look up the meaning of a word with the simple shortcut command “Define.”  My search gave me several meanings for this one specific word, and that got me thinking about how people are defined–me in particular.  I am afraid that I am starting to be known as “that one guy who lost all the weight.”  Granted, it’s better than being known as “that fat bastard,” but my entire existence has suddenly become defined by the change in numbers on my scale.  I don’t really want to be known as the diet guy.  That’s too much pressure for me. 

So I was in my home town last month.  Had breakfast with one of my best friends.  He brought along his cousin.  Apparently I’ve met the guy on previous occasions–I don’t remember him–but he remembered me, and brought up my weight loss, and told me repeatedly how impressed he was with me.  He went on to tell me how he was trying to lose weight–and when the waitress came by, the guy ordered bacon, eggs, biscuits, gravy, and pancakes. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I desperately wanted to pig out as well.  But he tells me while we’re sitting at that restaurant table that I’m some kind of amazing, and I immediately felt the pressure to be a good example.  Suddenly I’m a guy with a prospective follower–I can’t look like I’m not living up to his image, right?  So I had two poached eggs and half of an English muffin, no butter–and watched my disciple consume the four thousand calories of fried awesome on his plate. 

Fucker.

I could have gotten a more substantial breakfast.  Something with taste, and flavors, and gravy-flavored deliciousness.  I wanted it.  But I fought the urge.  Because in that moment, I had been defined as a good example–and I felt obligated to live up to it.

So I have been trying to figure out how I want to be defined.  Maybe my definition could include the words…smart?  Good-looking?  Full of self-confidence?  Positive energy?  But just this weekend, a friend of mine told me that I’m “grumpy.”  What?!?  Grumpy???  I’m a happy-go-lucky, whistling while working bastard with a Cheshire Cat smile on his face and a spring in his step.  Of all the things she could say, she went with grumpy.  Bitch!

Okay…maybe she was right.  But I don’t mean to come across as grumpy.  I do have a tendency to be a bit sarcastic, which rubs people the wrong way.  But I want to change that.  I don’t kick dogs, I take care of my family, I pay my bills on time, I floss every day.  In addition, I exercise, I try to eat right, I don’t do drugs, I work at a tough job without complaint, I love my mom, and I’m a loyal friend.

But I’m not sure any of those things translate into a tidy, simple definition of me.

Years ago, I worked for a mortgage bank.  It was housed under a larger umbrella corporation that offered different financial services.  We all shared the same overworked, underpaid receptionist.  Not only did the person in this position greet people in the lobby and serve as a secretary, they were also responsible for answering the phones.  During the boom time for mortgage bankers, the phone rang nonstop for everyone–particularly the mortgage side of the business.  In the middle of the peak, we lost our long-term receptionist–and in our attempt to replace her, we ended up hiring a series of people who never seemed to be a good fit for the position. It was comical–like a scene out of Murphy Brown or something–because the turnover was so bad.  New hires would show up for the first day, work the morning, and not return after lunch.  We had one older woman who held on for a few months, but we ended up letting her go because she kept talking to customers in the lobby about the mysterious High Monks the federal government was sending up on the Space Shuttle–part of their master conspiracy to control the weather, you know.  Looking back, I think she may have been hearing mystifying signals of her own from the Mothership.  

Ultimately, we ended up hiring a woman by the name of Cynthia.  To describe her as a great receptionist doesn’t do her justice–she was so much more than that.  Sweet, sympathetic–just a genuinely good person with the kindest thoughts and intentions.  She found out everyone’s birthdays and made everyone cakes from scratch–which is a big deal, considering she did it for almost forty people every year.  Even after she left the company, she’d sneak cakes through the back door and leave them on the lunch table, never asking for even a thank you in return.  Cynthia is one of those people who I will always remember–thoughtful, caring, a true delight. 

I would like to be defined like Cynthia.  Not as that diet guy–but with adjectives like I just used for my former receptionist.  Now I realize that my sense of humor and (to borrow a word) grumpy outlook will get in the way of such niceties…this would all be so much easier to define if I just had the power to read people’s minds.  Find out what they really think.   I loved that movie with Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt.  It would be great to steal the non-diet-guy related thoughts about how others see me, and use those in my self-definition.  Then again, Mel Gibson had the power to read womens’ minds…not sure I want to look in those.  Seems like some things are better left undiscovered.

So I was chatting with friends of mine a few weeks ago, and I expressed concern about a new business venture that was started because of my weight loss. I was saying how I was worried that it wouldn’t be successful, which would in turn make me appear the same way.  One of my friends turned to me and said maybe the nicest thing I’ve ever heard about myself–she told me she was sure I would be a success, not because of what I’ve done–but because of who I am. 

I like the idea of being defined as a success.  I don’t feel like a success.  Someone should have told me I had achieved this success thing.  I should have gotten some kind of memo.  A statement of work completed. Something to prove on paper that I am a success.  There should have been some kind of party, some event horizon, some kind of new privilege bestowed upon me.  Maybe a key to some hidden executive bathroom where the common people are not allowed. Or some small secret club where guys  like Richard Branson and Bill Gates hang out, drinking cognac and smoking cigars and swapping stories about their rise to the top while taking carnally delightful turns with members of the Swedish Bikini Team. 

Then again, I’m not entirely sure that the truly successful people ever reach a point when they feel they are successful.  I feel like I do what I do in order to avoid failure, rather than to gain success. I know I am a glass-half-empty kinda guy. I know many people who I personally would classify as successful.  They are driven people, and they always seem to be moving toward a new goal or a new project. I don’t think they ever sit back and think, okay I did it.  I am a success.

I do think I would like to be defined as a success. In the meantime, I will keep trying.

Paul

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 It’s been about three weeks since the lumps in my shins were removed.  I’ve healed up pretty well, but I’ve developed some interesting scars–I guess that’s what 70 stitches will do to the skin on your legs.   This got me thinking about scars.  I don’t mind them–they seem to give a guy character.  I can say that because I don’t have any real gnarly, Tony Montana-type scars.  Chicks dig scars, right?  At first glance, the only real lasting damage I have to my face is my nose–it was abused repeatedly when I wrestled in high school; it has suffered greatly with my general inability to move quickly to my left when I’ve been in fights; and it continues to endure further torture with my continually clumsy movements (and my general propensity to trip over everything.)  But I decided to do an inventory of the scars, bumps, and other randomness I have:

  • I have a scar between my knuckles from a fight from when I was about 23.
  • I have a six-inch scar just below my left kneecap from a trailer hitch that was in my way one night.
  • I have a faded scar on my left elbow from when I was about 10 years old–I went over my Stingray handlebars on a gravel road.
  • I have a lump on my middle finger from a break I received my senior year of high school at a wrestling tournament.  No, it’s not from overusing my middle finger, but that if that were medically possible…
  • I have a bone in my foot that is out of place from a break that didn’t heal as well as it should have.

I have no tattoos…yet.  Neither one of my older brothers have them either–at least, not that I know about.  I think that’s in part because my mother used to threaten to take them off of us with a potato peeler if any of us turned up for Christmas with new ink.  And now that she has Terminator-style titanium parts in various places, I don’t think any of us want to mess with her.  

Scars are real reminders of the mistakes we make or abuse we have suffered.  They’re different than other first-aid issues, like bruises or contusions, because they’re permanent.  If and when I get my skin surgery, I will have a huge reminder of the mistake I made in waiting so long to face both my issue and my fear.

I think as we move through life, we leave our mark on the world–and conversely, it makes sense that life might leave its mark on us, good or bad.  I hope that my mark on the world makes a difference.  I remember reading something in a book once–can’t remember the title or the author, but I do recall something they said–it was something to the effect that the only real validation of our existence was our impact on other people.  I think they were talking about the marks (hopefully not scars) we make on the lives of others. 

I hope my impact is positive.

I had an appointment last week with a surgeon–I had to have sixteen lumps removed from my body.  I don’t believe that I have anything to worry about, but the doctor thought it would be good to remove them and have them checked out.

So when I went in and had the surgery, I was telling myself the entire time that it wasn’t a big deal.  I told the doctor that I would prefer the local anesthesia, and didn’t really want to go through being put under.  I was never afraid of being put under until a few years ago.

During my previous job, I attended Chamber of Commerce meetings as a representative of my company. One of the tours we went on was to a drug rehab center that specialized in the recovery of people in the medical field.   (Apparently, people in medicine have drug problems just like people in other professions.)  One interesting tidbit that came out during the tour was that the majority of patients they get at that particular rehab center are anesthesiologists. They apparently have high stress jobs and easy access to high-grade drugs.  The picture I now had in my head was of me being wheeled into an operating room, looking up and seeing the anesthesiologist. He slowly covers my mouth with the mask, tells me to take a deep breath…and just as I am going out, he puts the mask to his own mouth and takes a hit.  Worse, I am awakened by the surgeon telling the nurse to “quit bogarting the good shit.”

Being the tough guy he-man that I think I am, I told my surgeon to just give me the shots.  She warned me that it was going to hurt.  I told her no problem, I was all good.  I didn’t realize I was going to get 18 shots all over my body. At one point, they were giving me three injections at the same time.  Apparently, they had an important lunch date for which they needed to hurry.  On the other hand, maybe they just liked watching me squirm while trying to maintain my composure and not cry like an eight year-old schoolgirl.  More than once, they told me to breathe.

One of the things I learned at my consulting appointment was that I was going to get some scars.  I kinda figured that was going to be the case, and wasn’t sure what my other options were.  I wasn’t really worried about a few small scars–I told her that at some point, with all of my excess skin, I’m gonna be filleted like a largemouth bass–to the tune of about six hundred stitches–so a few little marks on my legs weren’t really a big deal.

I went to the hospital, checked in, filled out the paperwork…and the next thing I know, I am in a room being prepped for surgery.  They took me into the operating room and had me lay down face-up on a bench with movable arms. They slipped Velcro straps over my appendages, and fastened me down to the bench–then told me to relax.  I asked why I was being secured to the bed–they said it was so I wasn’t tempted to help with the surgery or decide (in the middle of everything) to leave the procedure.  I’m fairly sure they were joking, but with doctors, who really knows?

There I was, lying in this crappy gown in a cold room while they worked on my legs, which is where the majority of the lumps were.  To be specific, they were in my shins, which made the shots even more fun.

The nurse said she needed to shave me up, and asked if I had followed the directions not to shave my legs before the surgery.  I told her I did not shave normally, and wondered if that’s really an issue.  Do they have a lot of guys that shave their legs?  Is this a common practice nowadays?  Then in one motion, the surgical assistant moved the gown up to my waist.  What the hell?!?  My shins are where the lumps are–not my bellybutton.  So, here I am naked from the waist down, strapped to a table, with four women in a cold room.  Hey, Doc–do you think we could crank up the heat?  I’m not exactly…myself in this cold room…

The staff was great. I had a nurse, a surgery assistant, a surgeon and a resident working on me at the same time.  I listened to their discussion about the lumps they were removing.  With the exception of one–the lump in my chest–the lumps they removed looked and felt like bone.  Two things you don’t want to hear your surgeon say: “Hmmm… interesting.” and “Wow…strange.”

I spent the next three hours watching them work on me while listening to my surgeon sing along with the lite rock radio station playing in the operating room. When they got the final stitches in, for a total of 70, they wrapped my legs up with ACE bandages.  I felt like a sausage.  In the recovery room, they gave me cranberry juice (without the vodka) with a side of graham crackers, and sent me home.

It’s been a few weeks, and I am still waiting for the analysis of the lumps. They suspect they are fat cells that have gone through calcification and hardened.  I think that means that some of my fat isn’t going without a fight.

The good news is, I am still moving ahead…and it’s only a matter of time before I go bionic.

A friend just reminded me that I started to write this blog one year ago. While I have made an effort to keep looking forward, I think anniversaries are a great time to reflect.

One of the things I have been thinking about is the changes I have gone though over the last year. When I was recently in Vegas, I was reminded of Elvis several times. It seemed that Sin City was really his home away from Graceland, and there are reminders of him everywhere. That got me to thinking: Most of the photos of the King are from his young, fit days, not the fat, drug-addled, over 40 Elvis.

I think due to my age, I became aware of Elvis when he was the older fat version. So when I think of Elvis, I think of that version. In doing a bit of research, it appeared that his weight gain was rather quick, occurring in only a matter of months. I am guessing that people that grew up with Elvis still think of him as being fit and vibrant.

This got me questioning how people picture me. I wonder if the people that knew me then still think of me as weighing 600 pounds? Do you get new impressions of people as time wears on, or is it the first impression that lasts? I still see myself as a fat guy. Even with the fact I have lost the weight, I still feel like I am a fat guy, and I still see fat Elvis looking back at me in the mirror.

One new thing that has happened over the last few months is people now telling me I have lost too much weight. I just think, “What the hell?” I can’t win. I don’t really believe it’s true, because I am not anorexic or prisoner of war thin. I weighed in this morning at 229 pounds. At just under 6’3”, I think that is a sizable weight. I see many people that are much thinner than me. I think those people still see me as the fat guy, and have issues comparing between that and who I am now.

Over the last year, I have seen small changes. This year, I have only lost around 40 pounds. I see changes in how clothing fits. I seem to have passed the point where my chest is larger than my waist, so shirts fit and feel so much better. I have also noticed that my hands are more nimble. I can actually push only one key when I type on my phone. Cars, for the most part, are also easier to get into and out of. I guess I just feel normal for the first time. That’s an interesting revelation to come to. It took almost 5 years to get here, but it happened.

My mood has improved. I no longer feel the need to add people to my manifesto of revenge on a daily basis. Although, the woman that cut in front of my daughter and I at the Farmer’s Market last week and then said “excuse you” made it to the top of the list.

The last thing I decided has changed is that I am much more open to new experiences and meeting new people. Even though I am outgoing, I was always a bit hesitant. I didn’t want to be judged. I was recently at a long time friend’s wedding. She had it at her house in my hometown. The people that attended were almost all people I did not know (and the one that I did know didn’t recognize me and introduced herself to me). I felt myself hesitate when I got to the front door, but took a breath and walked in. I was surrounded by people who had no clue who I was, and while it was awkward, I wasn’t uncomfortable. One of the first people I met was the minister; he was decked out in a black suit, shiny black shoes, and a white priest’s collar. I walked up to him, held my hand out, and said, “Hi, I’m Paul, and you must be the lucky groom.” This threw him a bit, and he started to explain that he was the minister, but I told him I was only joking (I thought it was funny).

I met several people and was glad I decided to make the trip. My friend had a great wedding. Even with it being outdoors in the pouring rain, she looked beautiful and the ceremony was great.

Comfortable: that word actually kind of explains the best change…I am comfortable in my own loose wrinkled skin, for the first time in my life.