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Monthly Archives: November 2010

I read the lyrics from a Johnny Cash song, “The beast in me is caged by frail and fragile bars.” I can completely relate to this sentiment. I am pretty sure Johnny was referring to binge drinking/drug use or just partying too much on the road. While I don’t have those issues (we can only hope, maybe someday), I can relate.

About 2 years ago, I was driving to Seattle to visit some friends. It’s not a long drive from my house, only about 3 hours. But, when you consume the amount of water I do, road trips tend to take a bit longer considering the pit stops.

At one point, I pulled off the road and was sitting in a drive through coffee shop. It was one of the little stand-alone glorified garden sheds that serve overpriced hot drinks. Just before that, I had hit the drive through at Mickey D’s and purchased a happy meal for my daughter. As we waited in line for the coffee, my daughter was showing me her happy meal toy. My attention was distracted for maybe 10 or 12 seconds. The line had moved forward and I apparently wasn’t pulling forward fast enough for the guy behind me. So did he give me a small tap on the horn to catch my attention? No, he decided with his limited brain cells that the thing to do was squeeze between my car and the building and pull around me. I looked up when he came into my peripheral vision and was amazed at his attempt to move around me.

I was immediately enraged. The beast was out. I pulled up behind him, very close. He had rolled down his window to place his order. I rolled my window down and wanted to calmly explain my displeasure at his driving skills. What happened wasn’t exactly what I had intended. I leaned out and yelled, “HEY FUC*%R, what was that move all about, I will F*#K you up like cancer!” I was not sure why, but I went right to DEFCON 1. Thank god he did what he did, which was to place both his hands up, palms exposed, out of his window and say he was very sorry that he didn’t know what I was doing. I am so glad he didn’t get out of his car. At my level of rage, I am sure he would have been spitting out his teeth like so many bloody Chiclets . I don’t normally use language like that in public and especially not in front of my 7 year old daughter. I like to let her learn those words from watching Sopranos reruns on cable just like all her friends.

For the most part, I think I am a pretty calm, controlled person. My job deals with upset people on a consistent basis. In my previous jobs, I have repossessed cars and been a collector for collection agencies and finance companies. I never ever lost my cool like I did that day. I have had much bigger reasons than that to reach critical mass and it would have been justified. I never got mad at people that threatened my life, for crying out loud. But that day, it really felt like an out of body experience. I was watching myself lose my cool in the third person. I was amazed that my anger just boiled over. I am not sure that cutting line is a capitol offense. As soon as I pulled up to the cashier, I instantly felt bad. The barista was looking at me like I was standing there holding a pitchfork full of kittens.

When I got back to work, I was chatting with a friend of mine. I won’t name him because (while I would never admit it in front of him) I look up to him a bit. I would hate for him to get a swelled head. He inquired about my weekend. I relayed the story of the car episode back to him as one of the low lights of my trip. I told him I just didn’t understand where that anger was coming from. I told him lately I had been really quick tempered. He just started to laugh. He said, “Just think about it. You’ve been dieting for quite a while. Number one, that makes you cranky. Number two, that takes a great deal of control and effort. It only makes sense that you would lose it over something else.”

As soon as he said that, I knew he was right on the button. I instantly felt better. For some reason, just knowing where that anger was coming from was able to help me defuse it. I am not saying my temper hasn’t been short, but I no longer have this level of stress. Only occasionally do I want to go Norman Bates on someone for kicking the back of my chair at the theater. What can I say, you can take the boy out of the country…you know the rest.

I think this must be the same type of mental struggle that people quitting smoking go through. It’s some sort of growing pains. At the end of the day, being hungry sucks and it makes you cranky! Remember the first rule of dieting…no one talks about fight club.

Paul

Back when I was on my high school wrestling team, I wasn’t exactly the ideal personification of a young wrestler.  I didn’t have any natural athletic ability–well, unless you call a guy who moves like a baboon with a club foot athletic.  In addition to my obvious lack of skill and grace, I was a total smartass.  Not a great combination as far as my coaches (or anyone else) were concerned.  I had one thing going for me, and that was my size.  I weighed over three hundred pounds as a thirteen year-old freshman. 

Back at that time, the body governing high school athletics in Oregon didn’t have a weight limit for anyone wrestling in the heavyweight class–the only prerequisite was that you weighed over 191 pounds.  Initially, that was all I had going for me.  Being a fat kid with no ability whatsoever, I pretty much got my ass beat at every meet for the better part of my first three years.  Most of my teammates were unsupportive jerks.  There was more than one time over my high school wrestling career when I wanted to quit–even did a few times–but I always went back and finished. 

I had three coaches–I think there was a head varsity coach and two assistants or something like that.  Like I said, I wasn’t a dream athlete–but my coaches weren’t exactly a bunch of Vince Lombardis, either.  I always had the feeling that it was more of an ego issue for them than anything else; more about their wrestlers winning than it was about their wrestlers learning and doing well.  One of their favorite motivational-type things to say toward the end of practice was “It’s gut check time!”  They never explained what that meant, but they said it a lot.  Looking back, I guess they were calling wrestling a test of courage or determination or something, and that it was time for us to kick it into a higher gear–even though we were dog tired.   They wanted us to focus and finish hard. 

My senior year was different.  Things changed.  Fed up with losing, I grew up–well, I grew out–and started taking things a little more seriously.  I won matches against decent wrestlers, and I even won a few tournaments.   The last tournament of my senior year was District Finals.  I wound up wrestling for third place, because I had lost a match earlier in the tournament to the guy who ended up taking the championship.  If I could win that third place match, it would mean a spot at the State Championships.  The ham-fisted, awkward, smartassed fat kid could go to State.  What a turnaround, right?  Look how far I’d come!  So I wrestled a guy that was not only bigger, but a much better athlete.  He had beaten me every time we wrestled in our entire four years of high school.   Despite my best efforts–I actually had him on his back at one point–he ended up taking a decision on points and won the match.

Since I was in the heavyweight finals–one of the last matches of the two-day tournament–my team had already left. My dad was waiting for me to get dressed, so I headed to the locker room to take a shower.  I was the only one in there, and was putting my shoes on when the varsity coach walked in.  I figured he was going to say something motivational and coachy–like that he was proud of me or I did my best or something.  But instead, he took a long look at me and said, “Well you sure blew that chance.  If you’da just listened to me and did everything I toldja to do in practice, you woulda won.  You just fucked up, kid.”  And with that, he turned on his heel and walked out.  HUH?!?!?!  What was the point of that, Coach?   I was graduating in a few months–and I didn’t have any future plans to wrestle–but really?  That’s what you’ve got for me?  Wow, I hope you weren’t hoping for a post-coaching career in motivational speaking…

Jerky locker room comments aside, he did say one thing that I still remember.  “It’s the daily practice that makes the difference–and you need to remember that when it’s gut check time, you can fold or you can push.”

I’ve been thinking that it’s gut check time for me right now.  A few months ago, I hit my goal of 225–but then I took it easy, and I’ve let my weight creep back up to 232 pounds.  Seven pounds doesn’t seem like a lot of extra weight, but it’s really starting to concern me.  Concentrating on my goal has fallen by the wayside, and I’ve started creeping back into unhealthy eating habits.  I have a chocolate monkey on my back from Halloween, and he is holding on tight.  I think I need to regain my focus and work on trying to finish hard.  Now that the end of the year is here, it would be easy to let my eating slide.  But in the face of Thanksgiving and Christmas, I think the time is right–literally and figuratively–for a gut check.  

So right here, right now–I am renewing my commitment.  This is my test of courage; this is where my determination needs to shine through.  I will get those last few pounds off and hold strong through the end of the year.  I am going to attempt to get back to 220 by January 1, 2011. 

It’s gut check time.

Paulie

This last weekend, I was drinking at 9:30 in the morning with a good friend of mine.  (Hey before you judge us, it was a Saturday–and it’s not like anyone was going to ask us to work Air Traffic Control at the local airport.)  The only thing better than having a cocktail in the morning is having several cocktails in the morning.  Besides, it’s nice to have friends who mutually enable each other.  

So we were discussing the woes in our bitter little worlds, and we got to chatting about pride and confidence.  I pointed out how some people seem to have so much pride in themselves, and I’m never really sure if it’s confidence or false bravado.  I have lost over 375 pounds.  Even with people telling me what a phenomenal feat that is, I don’t really feel a huge amount of pride about it.  I often wonder where the self-promotion some people seem to have comes from.  My friend’s theory is that those who have an excess of self-confidence are simply overcompensating for the issues they want to hide from others.  It’s the difference between being confident and being cocky.

Pride is a funny thing.  It can motivate you.  It can embarrass you.  It can get you into trouble.  Pride tells you not to let those Hell’s Angels disrespect you.  Stand up for yourself, punk!  Pride tells you that you are hot enough for that redhead across the club–and then when she shoots you down, pride whispers in your ear that’s she’s probably a lesbian.  Pride also tells you, when you’ve been knocked down, to stand up and try again.  Pride tells you that you aren’t going to allow yourself to be defeated.  Pride in one’s self is a good thing to a certain point…but excessive pride is obnoxious.

We came to the conclusion that quiet modesty is a good thing.  It’s better to accept compliments with a simple thank you, because to be confident is to be zen with yourself.  People respond to someone who is self-assured; someone who knows their strengths and also their weaknesses.  It’s a sign of a leader.   It also reminds me of all those Playmate data sheets.  Centerfolds always write in that bio section of their pictorials that they like confident–not cocky–men…or so I been told by people who have read them. 

I get compliments about my looks now, and I never really know how to respond.  It seems to surprise people that I am uncomfortable by the kindness. What they don’t get is that I am waiting for the but or the if to follow their words.  You look good…but you would look great if you just lost some weight.  You would be cute…if you could just drop some pounds.  After hearing but and if for the better part of 42 years, it’s hard to resist the urge to flinch when a flattering remark starts coming my way.  If someone gives me a compliment and doesn’t follow it up with a but or an if, I get suspicious.  I wonder what they want from me.  

I get in trouble when people ask me about losing weight.  It sounds so cliché, but I figure that if I am able to lose weight, anyone can do it.  I don’t feel special.  What does special feel like?  How would I know I’m special?  Growing up,  if you were special it meant you went to the remedial classes and rode the short bus to school.  I’m not sure that’s what people want to hear, but that is how I feel–and I don’t view what I have accomplished as incredible or phenomenal.  I view it as just something I needed to do.  I want to feel great about what I have done…but the best I can seem to feel about the entire process is relief.

I do not have pride and confidence in myself for what I have done.  I have pride and confidence in myself for who I am.

Paulie