In my last post, I mentioned that the book is not suffering from writer’s block. That is true.
What is more true is that a larger, competing narrative has emerged. Not a new book, but rather an attempt to unravel my own identity and sort out the truth of who I am in this moment. Actually, the issue is more about the choices I made previously that got me to this moment.
So, this isn’t about the book, but more about what is preventing me from giving it my attention. I’m hoping by writing this out, it will start further processes turning, connections made, and
This might be a HUGE blog entry. That’s the sense I’m getting. But, there will be no e-mails sent to friends encouraging them to read it or anything else. I’m more than willing to talk about thing in person, but the blog feels like the safest place for now.
Where to start?
A few months back, I started overeating. That may or may not be true. I say I’m not sure, because the more I examine it, I don’t think the binge-eating or overeating was new, it just gained clarity as my new body got smaller, my portions decreased more, and my body started feeling healthier. I forget what happened specifically, but the end result was that I had a sudden urge to overeat and it was alarming.
Sadly, it is not as alarming anymore. I do continue to see the eating binges as the death throes of my fat identity trying to stay alive in the sense that they will cease to exist when I hit my goal weight. That is pure optimism, though, and I’m not certain it is true. Because, looking back, there were signs that I was overeating before (which seems ridiculous to say, given that I was over 300 pounds). I remember that I would come home and, passing Safeway, stop for a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Frozen Yogurt, always having the debate whether to go Cherry Garcia or Chunky Monkey. When I got home, it would get a quick turn in the microwave and finished in one sitting. Of course, that kind of behavior is how you get to and maintain 300+ pounds.
Back then, they were intentional and never agonized over. I just wanted to have yogurt. Today, it is an ongoing struggle between knowing what I should be doing and feeling like I’m watching preordained activity unspool itself against my will.
Let’s take a look at today and see where things went wrong. As per usual, it is always clear when things are going to be more likely to happen. As much as I complained about having a full-time job back in the day, it did provide a measure of direction. It compartmentalized my day effectively into times I had places to be, meetings, lunch hours, and such. So, given my entire day being my own right now, if I do not cordon off specific activities in advance, chaos rules. If I wake up and my gym bag is packed and the plan is to immediately go to the gym, that is perfect.
That said, it takes me a good 30 seconds to pack a gym bag, but it is irrelevant. The point is whether I wake up knowing I’m going to the gym as opposed to waking up thinking I might go to the gym. The latter may mean a leisurely breakfast, nodding off in front of the TV, checking e-mail, playing Ms. Pac Man while listening to Al Franken, and then finally around 10 a.m. (up to three hours after waking up), finally going to the gym. When I plan to go in advance, I will be at the gym within 30 minutes of waking up.
I need margins and discipline. I make lists in my sleep, baby.
I guess part of the issue for me has been how the two events can differ so widely, given there is only a 30 second hurdle to overcome if I didn’t pack my gym bag the previous night. It seems ludicrous, but the issue is really about intent, not whether my gym clothes are ready to go.
The writing follows suit, and it subject to always being the next thing on my list. After I go to Trader Joes, I’ll work on the book… after the gym, after I make lunch, after I read another chapter of my book, etc., etc. In some ways, the gift of having the whole day open has backfired. Nothing exists to reign my schedule in.
That said, I am a horrible tyrant when it comes to giving up on writing for the day. I would prefer to be honest right up front some days and say, "It isn’t happening today, let’s call it quits." That never happens. Instead, the day is spent in a perpetual limbo where the book is dangled after every activity and then ignored to some new whimsy.
I do think the writing avoidance and binge eating have ramped up a bit lately because the job situation is making me nervous. I definitely underestimated how soon I would get hired based on the assumption that I was qualified for a large number of jobs that are regularly posted. While that is still true, there is a massive disconnect between companies posting jobs and then following through for interviews and such. And some of them are so perfectly lined up with my abilities, I really can’t imagine that I’m not being called back.
The overeating always sneaks up on me. Every day starts with good intentions, although (to quote something said at the Weight Watchers meeting I attend) there is a positive intention behind every food choice (I’m messing that up, I’m sure). But, basically, the gist is that there is something I am trying to do that is good when I overeat. Sounds nice, and honestly, I’m not buying it, but there is definitely something to it.
The best way to typify what has gone on lately is to think back to the Last Suppers. I used to start diets on Mondays, since that seems to be my family’s way, so when a new diet was going to start on a Monday, I would be sure to go out on Sunday night and chow down. Especially on food I wouldn’t be getting anymore. Then the diet would start Monday, and fizzle out before Friday. The intention to start again on Monday would kick in again, as would the Last Supper on Sunday, and the pattern would repeat.
The only thing I was good at doing was having Last Suppers. And, now, the only difference is that I don’t wait until the next Monday to recommit, so once a day goes downhill, there is an "Oh well, better get it while you can" mentality to everything. But, it is deeper than that, I am definitely trying to fill some hole with this food, and I’m writing this to try and attack the issue from different angles and try and see what it might be.
I’ve mentioned recently about the identity issues that have surfaced as a result of my weight loss. In some ways, I am not the before or the after in my pictures. But the issue digs much deeper than the external. The body image struggle has raised issues about my core personality and made me wonder about how I became the person I am today.
For example, I am not a very social person. That doesn’t mean i don’t want to be, just that I’m not at present and, more troubling, I’m not very good at breaking through whatever bullshit has got me where I am today. Nearly every friend I see regularly and chat with on a regular basis is someone I knew before I moved to San Francisco, and knew primarily online, and then became friends in real-life with them once I moved here.
But, I mean, it’s San Francisco. It’s a big city. While not removing these people is OK, I should certainly have added to the ranks over the years. But I think I just shut myself off to that. I remember being at Macromedia and thinking that it was strange how they only talked about work and we never got together afterward, but I think that is more about the vibe I put out there. I was only there to work and didn’t push to become part of people’s lives in a deeper way.
In some way, this is something that is troubling about pursuing a career writing novels. There are two ways it can go: 1) The book does well enough for me to ditch my job, work on the next book full-time, and learn how to be social outside the parameters of what it takes for me to write a novel; 2) I have a full-time job AND need to use a chunk of my time not at work to work on the second book. In both cases, it is going to take some doing to get me out of this hole.
But, similar to my difficulties in dating, being social is only like riding a bike if the assumption is that you’ve ridden before. Only, I haven’t. I shut down a long time ago, and I’m not certain why.
I remember seeing picture of when I was in high school, and we all went on a band trip to Virginia, and in every picture, my group of friends was there, clustered together, and a few steps back, I would be walking behind them. They were chatting, pointing at things while the others looked in the direction of their fingers, and a few steps back, I would follow, probably not hearing what was being said and clearly not looking at the object being pointed at.
So, this has been going on a while.
I think this is why Dae had such an impact in Thailand. I had never been in a situation before where someone wanted so badly to be with me. And he had to do it despite me pushing him away several times. I mean, I’m in Thailand, alone, and some hot Asian guy that I’m totally into keeps offering me sex, and I’m making excuse after excuse to get out of it?! That is not normal.
I know I’ve chatted with Darrel about this on a much higher level, more about my inability to be spontaneous. Like, he would end up, on occassion, in my neighborhood, just walking by my apartment, and see if I was home and up for a visit. I honestly couldn’t imagine how you just end up somewhere. I have to have a destination when I leave the house and then, when I’ve been there, I return home.
Another example is how I never really took advantage of the San Francisco nightlife, and my exucse used to be that my friend who would come down for dinner and a show or somesuch always went home right afterward. So, he would drop me off at home, after we had our meal and entertainment at like 11 p.m., and I would just go to bed. Now, most people who are planning to go out for the night aren’t even otu the door at this point, but I just settled in and called it a night. Again, not normal.
The binge eating seems to be a new way my body has found to make me uncomfortable in my body now that my body no longer makes me uncomfortable. Today, I had a normal serving of oatmeal for breakfast, plans to eat with a friend flying in for lunch, and then probably just have one of my portioned-out meals in the refrigerator for dinner. Pretty easy.
So, after breakfast, I’m on the phone with my mother, and notice an e-mail from my friend that he missed his flight and that we’d probably just do dinner instead. This seems pretty obvious. Eat the portioned meal for lunch and go out for dinner, right? Somehow, it became eating one of the portioned-out meals while still on the phone with my mother (at like 11 a.m.), so why so early? What meal is this? Am I even hungry?
After I hang up, I decide I would go to Trader Joe’s to pick up some frozen veggies, as I was running low. If I was already going to Trader Joe’s, I should just work out at the Potrero Hill 24 hour fitness, instead. And, if I’m going there, I can have lunch at Herbivore.
OK, why am I going out for lunch? I just ate what is a perfectly-portioned meal, albeit slightly earlier than I should have. Anyway, since I’m going for frozen stuff, Trader joes gets shuffled to the last stop. First stop, of course, Herbivore. And less than an hour after eating, I’m having a vegan shwarma with potatoes and eggplant. Then, not certain that I’m "full" (bitch, please!), I opt for the vietnamese spring rolls. The logic here is that I’m not certain what time I’ll be having dinner, so this will prevent me from snacking.
The logic fails quickly as my next stop is the corner store which sells the soy ice cream sandwiches, which I have, because it is a nice warm day. Of course, before buying that, I toss back two haystacks from the bulk bin (chocolate covered coconut!) without paying for them.
I walk back down to 16th street, turn right to head toward the gym, and make it as far as the Latin grocery where I buy a corn tamale for 99 cents. Another blow against later snacking?!
And then here is the beautiful part of the day… I decide to bail on the gym AND Trader Joe’s, which is why I left the house in the first place.
Instead of working on my book, which was the half-excuse I made for returning home, I end up napping. At around 4 p.m., I make another serving of oatmeal, but this time, it is not the 3/4 cup of oats, but the full cup. At this point, my friend has already called and is at the airport, and just taking the train to his hotel at which point, we’ll have dinner. So, I eat to prevent afternoon snacking, and then have a voluminous afternoon snack.
At Nirvana at 6, and we start with steamed dumplings, and I get a non-dairy order of the Man-O-Mango, which I have rarely, as it is fruit and refined flour. But I skip dessert. Well, at Nirvana, anyway. After getting him back on the subway to head back to his hotel, I hit the bubble tea place for some iced tea and refined tapioca flour pearls.
Then, on my way home, I stop at Crepevine. An important thing to note here is that Crepevine is a Cash Only establishment, and before Nirvana I *intentionally* took out enough money to cover Nirvana and, just in case, Crepevine. So, no shock here, but I’m at Crepevine and ordering Pumpkin Spice pancakes. And, these are BIG pancakes. Like three pancakes at 8 inches wide, and maybe a half inch thick. With a side of fruit (healthy?).
It is important to note that, once again, I have my backpack with me and the plan was to go to the gym AFTER the pancakes, since if they are in your stomach when you work out, you will burn them as fuel immediately. But, I blow off the gym.
Now I’m in Safeway. I have no plan to buy anything, no need to buy anything. I start by getting ingredients for a McDougall Bean Burrito Casserole, but abandon them later in the store. I end up getting a box of cereal (organic Optimum Promise with flax, blueberries, etc., etc.) and, a reward(!!!) of a "healthy" candy bar, cuz it has soy in it or something, I guess.
The candy bar is devoured before I hit the sidewalk.
So, I get home, and well, is cereal really just a breakfast food anymore? That’s sort of old-fashioned thinking, isn’t it?
If you ever thought that these healthy boxes of cereal never really hold much, I would have to say that they basically will fill a basic soup/cereal bowl three times. That’s it. Bag’s empty after three.
I can’t say I want to know that information, but I do. I also must admit that I didn’t learn this tonight. But I did reconfirm those findings tonight.
So, after having oatmeal, a bowl of Indian spiced peas and mushrooms, a vegetarian shwarma with a salad, vietnamese spring rolls, two haystacks, a soy dream sandwich, corn tamale, big bowl of oatmeal, steamed dumplings, man-o-mango, pumpkin pancakes, side of fruit, candy bar, and three huge bowls of cereal… I call off my eating for the day.
And it was all so unconscious, without pleasure, just pure intake. But, I don’t know what makes a day like today happen, whereas tomorrow, I may not even stray from my regular routine and portions. This week will probably result in me missing Weight Watchers (reality avoidance), so that when I go again next week, I’ll be down a pound (rather than up 5, down 6, or something).
I know that a big cure to this is structure. My gym bag is ready to go already (hell, it’s been on my back and ready to go all day). I still intend on going to Trader Joe’s. And I am going to try like hell to work on the book tomorrow.
There’s still a lot of stuff about me that is broken. And a lot that has been fixed. I’m not sure what I’m trying to do by writing all of this here. Shame myself into changing? Explore the patterns and hope to find clarity?
Anyway, I just set an alarm to go off tomorrow morning. When it happens, I will prepare my normal dose of oatmeal, eat it, and go to the gym. When I come home, I will shower, dress up, sit here, and work on the book. After a few hours, go to Trader Joes, recover the hard drive that messed up my weekend, read some more of Brave New World, and hope that whatever makes me go off the rails doesn’t happen again.
I hate sounding like such a tourist to my own life. But it is the role I seem to have in all of this. I recently downloaded a ton of MP3s from Overeaters Anonymous meetings. I played them out loud during my last binge (couldn’t today because of the FUBAR’d hard drive). I keep trying to make myself cry, force some fake cathartic moment that probably won’t happen. I do wonder why I never cry, though. With the amount of emotional upheavel I’ve been through with the weight loss and such, it should have happened. I do think I’m too bottled up. Sometimes the amount of things in my life that I want to change seem overwhelming. (I cried in Thailand when I wrote the journal entry after saying goodbye to Dae).
The only thing I can do is to try and change, starting tomorrow. Wake up. Gym. Shower. Write. Read. Apply for jobs. Go shopping. Try and get through the day without binging. With writing. With working out.
Take one step away from the person I am, and one toward the person I want to be.
Today is over. It can’t be fixed. Tomorrow is a blank slate.