Skip navigation

Last month, the local newspaper did a story about me in their Health section.  It was a very flattering article and looking back, I’m glad I did it–but I have to admit, it was a bit overwhelming at first.  Apparently whenever they do weight-loss success stories like the one they did about me, they require “before” and “after” pictures.  It wasn’t the “after” photo that bothered me–in fact, I kinda like the “after” photo.  It was the “before” photo that was the issue.  Not an exaggeration when I say that the “before” photo was by far the worst picture EVER taken of me.  EVER.   (It’s posted on this website.  See if you can find it.)  I was a bit concerned because the “before” photo was going to be seen by people who I grew up with, people I had worked with, people I work with now.   That photo made me physically ill when I saw it for the first time.  But I had made the decision that if I wanted to move forward with my life and my future plans, I would have to own it.  Besides, it was the most graphic example of my success.  If a picture really is worth a thousand words, this one was worth almost four hundred pounds.

The day the article came out,  I stopped at the grocery store and picked up a copy on my way to work.  That itself was strange–picking up a newspaper I knew I was in–but the good news is I wasn’t in it for having been arrested, convicted, or indicted.   I was in the paper for something positive.  And I knew I was going to be in the paper.  I had done the interview.  I had submitted the photos.  I even knew when it was going to hit the stands.  What I didn’t know was that The Oregonian was going to publish my face all over the place.  A small version of my “before” and “after” photos was on the front page of the Living section.  No big deal.  The photos were tiny.  But oh, on the inside.  There I was, almost half the size of the page, right next to the TV listings… in my house, that’s the only page we read on a regular basis.

I read the paper in the parking lot.  Really, it was more of a quick scan because I started to a bit nauseous about the entire idea.  Putting the paper down, I drove to work, hoping that it would just kinda go away.  I hadn’t told too many people about the article–just a few close friends–so maybe no one would really notice.  They’d go to that page in the newspaper, double-check the start time on their nightly dose of Jeopardy, and that’d be it.

By the time I arrived at work, I felt a little better…until I happened upon one of my friends at work who did know about the article.  He helps me with my website, so I had given him a heads up about everything.  I had gone down to his office for something, and he had the paper spread out on his desk.  He told me it was a good article.  The praise felt awkward, but I repelled it (and the returning uneasiness) with the words that had calmed me down on the drive to work:  not many people would probably even see it, so it wasn’t a big deal.

That’s when he started to chuckle.  “Oh…NO,” he said, “The Oregonian has one of the largest circulations in the country!”  Immediately, the wave of nausea hit me again.  I felt physically ill.  I had to sit down.  My reaction only spurred on my friend (as with most good friends who encounter this sort of horrified reaction) as he decided to hop on the internet and look up the actual circulation of the paper.  He could barely speak through his laughter as he pointed out that the paper is distributed to a base of OVER THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND READERS PER DAY.

Great.  Thank you.  Just what I wanted to hear.

Digesting that tidbit of knowledge for just a second, I decided that I couldn’t be sickened over this any longer.  I calmed down and forced myself to come to the conclusion that since I couldn’t afford the cost of trying to purchase all three hundred thousand-plus copies that had blanketed the state, what was done was done, that I had done a good thing, and that there was no turning back.

The article did me a great favor and listed my website and blog.  I got some great emails from some really nice people…and a few strange people as well.  For the most part, it was all very flattering.  I got some great praise from a few other weight loss bloggers–two in particular–both are really amazing women.  Please check them out:

www.110pounds.com

 

So a few days after the article came out, I had adjusted to my newfound celebrity.  My fears of insecurity had been replaced with pride…and a little overconfidence as well.  Riding my high, I decided it was time to move forward with my desire to start with public speaking engagements.  I’ve done quite a bit of public speaking in the past at other jobs, but that was a while ago, and I’m sure I’m a bit rusty.  I thought if I could just get in front of a few groups, I could work on my spiel, work on my timing, and get in some practice so I could really start to develop what I wanted to say.  I got a bit dressed up (meaning I wasn’t wearing my faded jeans and torn up shoes) and went to make my first “sales call” for DisappearingPaul, The Speaker.  There’s a pretty fantastic gym near my house called Club Sport.  It was built inside of a former Costco warehouse so the place is massive–and it caters to a huge audience.  My plan was to introduce myself and see what kind of mutually beneficial opportunities might exist.  Given the timing of the New Year, I was quite certain that the gym would be offering various weight loss programs.  I wasn’t interested in being paid–I mean, if they wanted to, that’d be a bonus–more than anything, I just wanted to hone my craft in front of an attentive bunch of people.

On my lunch hour, armed with a copy of my newspaper article, a nice coat, and my ever-growing confidence, I walked into that gym and asked to see the marketing manager.  The receptionist asked me who I was.  What?!?  Don’t you know me???  For crying out loud, woman–don’t you read?!?  I told her my name, and she wanted to know who I was representing.  I told her I wasn’t there to sell anything–I just wanted to be introduced to the marketing manager.  She didn’t even look up when she asked me to hold on and picked up the phone.  I could only hear half of the conversation when she explained to the marketing manager what was going on, but it was pretty obvious that they were trying to figure out how to politely get rid of me.   When she got off the phone, she threw out an uncomfortable smile, and said the marketing manager was too busy to meet with me–so I should just call her.  Now I have cold-called people, and I have been cold-called upon:  being a manager in that situation, I always met with suspected salespeople–even when I was swamped.  If there was something new out there, I wanted it before my competitors got it.  Sure, it’s a hassle most of the time–but hey, sometimes it pays just to be nice.  Cold calling is hard, especially in person.  And furthermore, what did she think she was gonna accomplish by blowing me off?  Okay, I’ll just call her–the second I walk out to my car!  What, is she afraid that coming out from behind the curtain was going to ruin her cover as the great and powerful Oz?

Bummed out but still quite determined, I thanked the woman, turned on my heel, walked out the door, got back to my car–and called the marketing manager.  I’d had the good sense to ask for her business card, so I had her direct line.  She picked up on the first ring and it really caught me off guard.  It was all I could do to call her out–what the hell?  Way to play hard-to-get, sweetie.  Too busy to let it ring twice, are ya?  But I forced a little restraint, introduced myself, and asked her if they had any weight loss programs starting after the first of the year.  She replied that yes, they had some programs planned.

The End.

Not knowing how to proceed and feeling the silence from her short answer starting to grow uncomfortable, I asked her if she happened to read The Oregonian.  She told me she did not.  Holy crap, really?  Just my luck–I spent so much of the week avoiding people who had, and now I’d met two people in a row who hadn’t.  Awesome.   So I told her the paper had just done a pretty nice article about me, and that I’d just accomplished a pretty significant weight loss.  I then told her I was offering my services–free of charge–for the opportunity to utilize my experiences to assist with their upcoming weight-loss programs.  I purposely didn’t tell her how much I had lost in order to gauge her interest.  Whenever anyone hears “I’ve lost a lotta weight” or “I’ve had a pretty significant weight loss” the next question (trust me on this, I hear it several times a day) is always “Really?  How much?”  Not with this chick.  It was obvious that she just wanted to get off the phone.  She couldn’t have been less interested–she said if I wanted, I could send her an email with the information about me–but she didn’t think they would even consider it, because they’ve had staff who have lost weight that could easily be used in the sort of program role that I was suggesting.

Apparently they have people on staff that have also lost almost FOUR HUNDRED pounds and it wasn’t really that big of a deal for them.

I thanked her for her time and told her I would send the email.  Hanging up the phone, I fought back the urge to also thank her for extinguishing the small spark of any post-article self-confidence I had recently been able to muster.  In past jobs, I made cold calls hundreds of times every day, both on the phone and in person.  The overwhelming majority of those calls went  just like this one–nowhere.  I never ever gave it a second thought–I just moved on to the next one and kept plugging away, knowing that my next cold call could be a sale.

But this was very different.

When I was representing whatever random business I was selling, and the door got slammed in my face, I never took it personally.  This time around, the rejection was so personal I couldn’t avoid it.  I wasn’t selling financial services–I was selling myself–okay maybe that doesn’t sound right.  I wasn’t working a street corner in a thong and tube top.  But I was putting myself out there.  Hanging up the phone with Marketing Manager Chick, I felt pretty damn defeated.

When I got home, I sent her the email and attached a link to the article in The Oregonian.  I didn’t expect a response.  Not surprisingly, she didn’t give me one.

Looking for someone to share in my rejection, I spoke to a friend of mine and she told me this was a great thing.  I now had something new to write about!  And when I did start getting speaking engagements and gaining some notoriety, I could revel in the fact this so-called “marketing manager” missed a rare opportunity to shake hands with awesomeness.  This is one of the reasons I love my friends.  They are just as petty and vindictive as I am.  It’s an invaluable support system.

So for now, I keep plugging away–writing my blog, working out, eating right, and looking for another opportunity.

Paul

Advertisements

I think everyone has told lies…white lies, big lies, little lies, misdirection, concealment, lies of omission…you name it–everyone at one time or another has done it. 

I heard on the radio recently that men lie approximately 100,000 times by the time they are 60 years old, and women lie about 50,000 times by the same age.  I thought this was an interesting statistic, but then didn’t know if I should believe it because it was reported by a man, which makes the information suspect in the first place. 

I have a friend who seems to be constantly challenging me.  She has an amazing way of being brutally honest–lets you know exactly what she thinks.  The funny part is that she can do this, but never hurts anyone’s feelings when she does.  This is a real gift.  I know other people who can tell you what they think and all you want to do is punch them in the throat–it’s gotta be her Buddhist background or something that allows her to get away with it. 

Recently she challenged me to figure out what I wanted in life.  I narrowed it down to wanting to live an honest life.  I have known many people in the past and the ones I admire the most are the ones that just live honest. 

That being said, I have come to the understanding that in being so overweight, I have been lying to myself.  I lied to myself when I was telling myself that being overweight wasn’t my fault.  I had a “medical” condition that lead to it.  I lied to myself that my clothing was shrinking from being washed in hot water–yeah, that’s why things didn’t fit.  I lied to myself when I said the clothing manufacturers were making the clothing smaller.  I lied when I said I couldn’t do anything about my weight…and the biggest lie was that I wasn’t worth changing. 

Other truths I now embrace:

1)      I am never going to be part of the Rebel Alliance or the A-team;

2)      I am never going to be able to sing in any key that anyone other than Hellen Keller could listen to;

3)      I am never going to be injected, bitten, poisoned, or bestowed with a superhero power or ability;

4)      My fears of flying and bridges may never be completely gone;

5)      I am never going to look good in bike shorts or a speedo–but then again, no guy does;

6)      A career as a jockey is probably not in the cards for me;

7)      Evel Knievel wasn’t really that cool..in fact most agree he was a bit of an asshole;

8)      Holding a baby is kind of a fun thing to do…until they puke or poop on you;

9)      Steve McQueen was cooler than I could ever hope to be;

10)  It takes a big man to cry–and an even bigger man to laugh at himself;

11)  You really can be ashamed of what you do for a Klondike bar;

12)  Paying bills is never fun;

13)  Being considered a hypocrite is one of the biggest insults possible;

14)  Dad was right more times than he was wrong;

15)  Sometimes just sitting and watching a camp fire is the best therapy;

16)  The smaller the dog, the more prone they are to try and bite you;

17)  I am most likely never going to find pirate treasure;

18)  The best smells in the world are BBQ, fresh cut lawn and stripper perfume;

19)  Elvis might have been the King, but Jerry Lee is still the killer;

20)  True friends who are honest with you are few and far between.

Paulie

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

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

 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.

Last week, I went to Vegas with a few of my friends for Mancation 2010. We stayed in Vegas and did the normal stuff guys do when in Vegas…gamble, overeat and drink. A few things occurred to me over the time we were there.

Number one, I still pack for a fat man. When I was really heavy, I packed anything and everything I may have needed. I did this because when you are a size 9XL and you forget your swimsuit, you can’t run down to Wal-Mart and pick one up. I was always terrified that the airline would lose my bag and I would be stuck washing out my underpants in the motel sink for a week. On this trip, I had enough clothing for a month, even though I was only there for 5 days.

Number two, my metabolism is so amped up from all the water I drink and exercise I do that I have a hard time just sitting still and relaxing. I seem to be wired all of the time. I wanted to just sit by the pool, get some sun, air-dry, and try to get some of the Portland rain out of my bones. As I sat by the pool, I kept thinking about what I may be missing right then. I think I may need to find a nice class on Tai Chi or yoga just to get the meditation component into my life.

Number three, I need to get a new driver’s license. As I was leaving Vegas, I went through the security checkpoint. I took out my driver’s license and boarding pass and waited for my turn to be cleared by TSA. I handed over my identification and the TSA agent looked at my ID and then gave me the once over. He then looked at my identification again and asked me to step over to another area. I waited and watched as he got on his walkie-talkie and requested back up. I was now starting to wonder what I did wrong. Did I make a mistake in my nonchalant stance? Did I forget to check my rocket launcher? Did I have the appearance of a man with nothing to live for?

As I waited, a second TSA agent showed up. I am not sure what his rank was, but it appeared that he was someone in charge because the first agent turned over my Oregon Driver’s license to him. I watched him as he took out what looked like a jeweler’s loupe or a small, lighted magnifying glass that fit over one eye. He spent quite a bit of time looking over my license before giving me the evil eye. I expected him to hit a button and have a SWAT team drop in from the ceiling, yelling at me “Up against the wall, Mommar!” He then approached me and asked me to follow him. We walked over to small cubicle, where another TSA agent showed up. They just looked at me and asked me what was going on with my ID. I was a taken aback, and didn’t really know what they were talking about. I asked them in a very professional, articulate way, “Huh?” They then asked me whose ID this was. I told them it was mine. They looked at it again, and then back at me. “Have you lost weight?” I smiled. Yes, I had.

He told me my license showed my weight at 410, and I was not that weight now. Little did Sherlock know, that was just the weight I admitted to 10 years ago…in truth, even then I was much heavier.

I explained to him that I had lost weight and had not had a chance to update my ID. He asked me if I had other photo identification. Luckily, I had my state employee ID with me in my carry-on backpack. It also has a fathead picture of me, but was closer to my current look. They accepted it, and the atmosphere went from tense and serious to casual in a split second. They asked me directly if I had gastric bypass surgery. I told them no, and they then simultaneously asked me, “How did you do it?” I told them I drink water and watch what I eat. They seemed surprised I didn’t have a magic formula, but they told me thank you very much and have a nice trip.

I decided it was time to get a new license and got on my way. To their credit, it was September 12th, so security was at a higher state (at least I hope that it was and that I don’t look like a guy who meets the profile of someone that is ready to commit suicide and has nothing to live for). I also don’t mind the increased security and the hassle if it helps keep people safe.

The good news is, when I got on the plane and found my seat, the woman I was sitting next to didn’t roll her eyes when she figured out that I was sharing a row with her. That alone felt like a victory.

Paul