PD

Forcing myself to write about something positive today. It’s the last week before spring break and the kids know it. I believe I have planned accordingly, lesson-wise, to have a solid balance of challenging material I need to get in at this midpoint of the trimester, along with SEL and student choice time so they stay grounded. My more difficult kiddos struggle these weeks because even though they tend to get in trouble more than most at school, it sometimes pales in comparison to the negative attention, or sometimes worse, apathy, they receive at home. And they know they are about to be there for 9 days straight. They bounce off walls for precisely the opposite reason the excited kids do. My point being, I need to stay as positive for them as possible and sometimes my more emotional pieces stay with me, or the source sentiments are already present and the writing is their manifestation. I need good juju this week so I am going to try and write at least some of it into being. Which accidentally segues perfectly into what I wanted to write about! How about that? Think positivity and get rewarded with a meandering stream of consciousness intro that at least vaguely serves the purpose it’s supposed to! (note to self – pay attention, dummy)

Around four years ago my life was derailed. I was blindsided with a life change I did not want or see coming in the least. That last year of college after around 10 years as a stay at home dad killed me physically. I settled into dad life fairly deeply in that I was not the fittest guy in the world. Kind of like that old joke where the sitcom dads are always overweight and jolly (and lazy) while the wife is always cast by a trim, stereotypically beautiful woman because demographics and shallow ratings yuck and whatever. But that last year was brutal. Especially the student teaching final half. I was dead on my feet always. I feel like every night that year I didn’t finish my school work until after 2 AM. My school had a particularly grueling and intensive teaching college in that we were piloting some new program or something. I made it a point to try and never even start my work until after my family had all gone down for the night. So for a year I slept from about 2:30 until I got up with the kids at 7 every night. I couldn’t just pass my classes, I was an adult and I was working on my career, I had to be perfect. So I was tired. And I was fat. I was so engulfed in finishing school that literally everything else was a blur for at least a year.

I graduated and the blur came into focus and before I could readjust my life had been altered. It became as unrecognizable as my bloated face and swelling body. I should have been so proud graduating summa cum laude and finally being able to breathe but a sucker punch to the gut took care of that.

Within 3 months I lost over 70 pounds the wrong way. Rumors in the neighborhood were that I had contracted a disease. No matter how thin or frail I became I saw blubber. No matter the compliments I began to receive when I looked in the mirror I felt horror. I could hardly touch food or think about being a person, let alone a dad. And then tides turned with even just a whiff of stability and all of the weight returned in almost as rapid a fashion as it had left. I mean I went from being sad/confused but at least not a beached whale to miserable over what I had lost, and what I had regained that was not what I wanted to regain.

I am not some vain size-ist. Until this happened I knew I was bigger but never thought of myself as pretty or ugly. Just me. Not too flashy but very stylish (ha) and unique. As for others, especially if I loved you, I never saw size. Like literally. I was told once that I needed to get someone I loved help because it was obvious some form of eating disorder was happening. I knew this person always had diet pills around but honestly never saw the extreme weight loss others had seen. I paid attention, in great detail actually, but just saw beauty. Extreme, flawless, beauty. Another time a person I loved told me she was at the same weight as she was the last time she was 7 months pregnant, only she wasn’t pregnant! Again, I had not noticed. Not for not noticing, but because all I saw was beauty. I would stare at this person and like cartoon hearts popped from my eyes and I wondered how I got so lucky. I was not ignoring their looks. And I’m not talking about inner beauty, in both cases I thought the person looked beautiful, gorgeous, amazing – physically. Hot. As. Hell. For reals. I literally never even registered weight fluctuation. But this seismic life shift suddenly put the spotlight on looks. I felt miniscule even in my gargantuan body. I felt disgusting. I looked like a monster and everyone could see. Ugh.

In literally every facet of my life at this point I suddenly threw everything into overdrive. I had to fix everything and I had to fix it now. It never occured to me that nothing was broken. That sometimes we see broken where there is necessary transformation or evolution.  But mostly I never considered that something can’t be fixed, or feel…better, quickly. I would try diets and workout like crazy for two or three weeks but when the scale didn’t make cartoon heart eyes at me I quickly reverted to pigging out on food and alcohol and couch time with Netflix because it didn’t matter anyways. When new connections socially were impossible to grow or develop according to some sort of competition I felt I was in and desperately had to win I felt more and more hopeless that no new good thing would ever happen in my life because I was gross and wrong and deserved nothing but solitude and pain. Yep, this is me writing positive so I don’t slip into the abyss in preparation of a tough week. I’m totally normal.

But then I realized that everything I was “trying” was wrong. For 2 years or more I repeated the same mistakes that only increased negative feelings and reactions in life. Rock bottom was hitting me instead of the other way around. Hard. For no other reason than, I think, there were no other options I adopted a new mantra that would need time to deliver results. I looked at the immense span of life before me (I’m not that old) and realized if what I’d been doing wasn’t working and already wasted months on it, I might as well go a different route and waste time that way. Everyone I love and who, more importantly, loves me kept telling me over and over that time would heal, that I just had to try and see past the hopelessness because it was making me helpless.

My new mantra was “Patience and Dedication”. And it worked! Well, it dug me out of that particular rut. It took over a year. Every time I got down on myself about the state of my life or any facet of it I repeated “patience and dedication”. “You’re not going anywhere anyways so keep going, trying, doing, and see what happens”, I would encourage myself in place of the usual berating I would do. “The human body is biology, physiology, etc – no matter how long it takes if you eat right and exercise like a maniac positive changes literally HAVE to happen”, I would remind myself rather than allow doubt to take hold and root-anchor. “Being solid and healthy and pleasant as a model for your children takes precedence over any pleasure or lifestyle or personal/social security you covet for yourself”, I reminded myself in place of seething jealous rage. Patience and dedication. Work on bettering you and keep going until it “works”. It does. It really, really does.

Last year, while still usually positively giddy at the notion that my simplistic little mantra worked so well, a co-worker (I’m guessing) caught me at a somewhat rare low point. Or overheard something. Or saw something. In my mailbox one day was The Four Agreements. I have my guess as to who this was (hi!). It is a self help type book. I always love those books. They make me feel as if I transcend all that binds us to this faulty human realm. For like a week or two. Celestine Prophecy, Peaceful Warrior, etc – all my jam back in the day. Truth be told I probably extolled the wisdom in those books for a while like a pretentious wanna be white suburban hippie shaman. Oh, young dumb me. The Four Agreements is very good, though. It helps eschew blame and helps you take hold of life and see it as a controllable commodity. It made me feel great for a while. I still like it lots but in moments of weakness I forget. In moments of weakness I seem to forget all the things.

I’m still weird with weight. I reached my dream weight toward the beginning of the school year. Stayed there for around 24 hours if I recall correctly. I saw it on a scale. It happened. Here’s the deal: while I hovered at around 10 lbs heavier (I eat a lot throughout the day at work – mostly healthy, mostly) than my dumb dream weight until Thanksgiving, I somehow emerged from winter break almost 30 lbs heavier than that lofty goal. I went to visit my family for 2 weeks with the kids in Florida and totally planned on going to the gym every day because I knew that since I wasn’t able to escape during a kidless Thanksgiving and found a friend who let me basically stay at their house eating and drinking away my missing them my weight would be up. I did go to the gym that first day and although it was the same gym company as the one I go to at home, the place was garbage. All outdated equipment and barely any of it worked. No showers or towels. Plus I was on vacation. I ate so much food and drank so much wine as 2017 turned into 2018.

But it was working! Good, good things kept coming. And I met this weight gain with confidence. Time and dedication. I did not work out and ate and drank like a maniac for over a month. Then two days back into my hardcore workout program I tore my hamstring. I got down on myself in the emergency room for a while but even did not let that get me too low. Patience and dedication. My life was exactly 1.6 million times better still than it was about 18 months ago.

I get down on myself when I miss the gym on days I can go. I pushed it too hard too early and hampered my hamstring’s progress. It is still torn almost 2 months later and am still restricted to upper body work. So the progress isn’t quite what I expected by now but I am down almost 10 pounds from my new year’s heaviest, which was still 35 pounds less than I was at ground zero of this whole thing. Technically I have 20 lbs left to ideal weight but that was something I only held onto for a very short time. 10-15 should suffice and I know that once my leg is healed I’ll get that off quick.

Maybe it is my not being able to control my body due to injury that I have found myself prone to low moments lately. I will always find any excess skin/flab on myself disgusting but I know enough about psychology to know why that is. I know body dysmorphia. I know the reasons for my low self-esteem. But as parts of my world get built up and crumble or reminding daggers of what has yet to be fixed in my life lance me I notice it is affecting me as it did not for a while.

Patience and dedication. When I look at what vexes me, mostly because I am pushing myself to be positive on the blog, I realize that patience and dedication will still work. For problems new and old. That just because this mantra got me where it did, it doesn’t mean I’m done working. Done fixing things that need fixing yet or dropping them from my fix-it list altogether because sometimes it takes inner change to see things for what they are. To realize you are spending extraordinary amounts of time and effort fixing the unfixable. That if you want to “fix” those “flaws” you must fully rebuild yourself after the tear down because the problem is probably your unfinished, immature rear-end. You won’t attain the needed fixes until you are ready to accept them. Until that radical positive transformation is actually complete. It is a process. It is ongoing and requires a total buy in. That’s the point.

Spring break is next week. I’ve no fun plans. Right now I have an unruly classroom to hold together. I remember now I am writing this for them and re-promising the return and remembrance of my life changing mantra for them. I noticed a very concerning amount of apathy in my classrooms this year early on. So I showed inspirational videos and challenged all my kids to embrace a buzz word and that buzz word was “relentless”. I pleaded with them to be relentless in all aspects of their lives. I have nothing that tells me the things that trouble me will definitely get better. I have slipped time and again since allowing myself the comfort of knowing that patience and dedication worked miracles for me. It’s time to step it up. Add that relentless spirit I jammed down my students’ throats. Conceptually dedication has relentlessness built in but it’s that patience piece. That’s the hard one for me. Relentless patience. Keep your mouth shut, know your work is holy, and see it to the end – however far off that may be. I know with all my heart that thanks to my updated mantra, my friends and family, and a well placed book there’s a good chance that, while I still may have uncountable rounds to go with my personal demons yet, if I stay the course I will win in the end. Whether it’s those last 15 pounds and abs that show again, finding ways despite meager means to pack my childrens’ lives with memories, being the teacher that finds ways to inspire students beyond the timeframe they’re within my walls, and even (maybe especially) still growing old with the most beautiful girl in the world like I always swore to myself I would – I can and will make it happen. “Never” is a challenge and “impossible” is an invitation to prove dedication over time. See me. Watch. Here goes. Because guess what? I got this.

5 thoughts on “PD

  1. Eddie. Thank you for writing this. Thank you for noticing a problem, fixing it, Ellen, re-evaluating, and fixing it again. You will be surprised at how many people… older people couldn’t even halfway handle what you’ve been through and recover. I’m in between such a rock and a hard place because… well I know someone who won’t even take time to realize that they have a problem. This past month has been such a healing process for me… now, if I can only write about what I’ve been meaning to get to. I am so proud of you. Proud of what you have become and your continued growth

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  2. That’s a lot to go through! Weight is such a tricky issue. It seems so easy for some people, and so hard for others (me included.) I hope you are able to find what works for you.

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  3. That is really putting yourself out there in a post. That is cool to see how you recognize so much about yourself. It is truly amazing what you did, and I hope you realize that. Just worry about being happy with you, the rest doesn’t matter. With kids, it is never easy to find the time. I am struggling with that too. I hope you get the results you are after. Make that time for yourself!

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  4. It’s interesting to me that this piece didn’t sound positive at all when I was reading most of it, but the overall take away now that I’m done is… well, positive. It’s like a whole journey of thought you took us on.

    I also read and loved the Celestine Prophecy many many many years ago. I just recently gave it to a friend to read. Have you revisited it lately? I was struck at how terrible the writing actually is!

    Keep on keepin’ on, friend. Patience and dedication.

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