Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday #5-To Be Human

"I am a man, I consider nothing that is human alien to me."
                      - Terence

My lips and tongue have embraced the expression that I "want to make a change" in my life and that I am "on a mission to change", but my mind has not done so yet.  I still eat crap and I am not moving enough to burn calories.  I have the MyFitnessPal app installed, but I conveniently forget to put on the foods I am eating.  And then as the day passes my mind turns into the part right before the climax of a romantic comedy when I tell myself that, "Too much time has can't ever be like it was.  It would just be better if I left this day blank."

I do understand that this is a life long process and I can not expect a change over night, but the gravity of the situation escapes me sometimes.  As of Monday, September 29, 2014 I am 323.9 pounds. 

I eat to fill the time, and that horrible habit has not ceased..yet. 

There is nothing in the world more awkward than being one in a room full of hormonal elementary school students learning about that forbidden subject we often call "sex education" (that was in whisper font).  Looking back what is so weird is that sex education is actually a life long process, but what it means changes over time.  When you are a kid, it is all about "what" it is.  When you get older it becomes about "what different things" other people are doing.  And then you want to learn "how to do it well".  And you want to practice a lot..over and over and get the point.

But this story is about when I was a 5th grader who was very excited (that was a pun) to learn about "sex education" from a series of slides on a projector.  All of us boys were put in one room and the girls were put into another room, because everyone knows that putting the sexes together to learn about sex education will produce illegitimate children.  That is a biological fact, so we were smartly protected from one another's loins.

Now looking back over my life as soon as I walked in the room, the instructor should have gently grabbed my shoulder and said, "Sorry son, but you can be excused.  You won't be needing to concern yourself with any of this for another the looks of you..maybe twelve years.  Go study, read a book or something."  But thankfully no one did that so I took my seat amongst my classmates and learned about vajayjays.

Now during the slides one of my classmates kept talking and giggling.  Let us call him Deion.  Now the way I remember Deion is that he looked like Mike Tyson.  Mike Tyson when he was in 5th grade.  With a very fast rate of speech, but without the classic speech impediment of the Champ.  Mind you, I knew who Mike Tyson actually was and one would have thought that any little person who resembled him in speech, physical build and stance would be someone I would avoid trouble with.  NOT SO!!

Well Deion kept talking and giggling and our instructor, who was a woman who seemed "old" to me at the time--which means she was probably in her early 30's--had had enough.  She said something to the effect of, "Deion, you have to leave the room now!"  Deion rose from his seat which was close to mine and began to walk out of the room.

When you look back at life you sometimes wonder openly, "Why did I do that?".  You hear people say things like, "THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT!" and you assume they are just lying.  Here is what actually happened in my life at that moment.  I felt something in my stomach start to bubble up.  This force rose through my chest and filled it up with air.  This air pushed its way up my esophagus, started to vibrate my vocal chords and began to press its way into my mouth.  It demanded to be freed, but before it did this unexplained smile came over my face.  And then I said it.



That was the actual sound that totally filled the room full of boys, who were my classmates and the people I was wading through puberty with, when Deion had cocked back and punched me in the side of my head.  Not the jaw, or the eye, or the ear, but literally the side of my head that my hair was covering.  I had never been punched that hard before, and the funny thing was it happened so quick that I would not have known it happened except for the SONIC BOOM that resulted from the punch and the fact that my head was bumping after he hit me.

What was I to do?  I'll tell you what I did.  I stood up and stared at Deion.  I think back then I had a good 4 to 5 inches in height on him.  I don't know if any of you remember this, but the custom when two brothers were engaging in a fight was that they had to get really close to one another (about one to two inches apart) and stare at each other before fighting.  Well, we were close enough but I was staring down at him where he was about to my chest level and he was staring up at me and not flinching an inch.

                        Iron Deion:

What was I to do?  Apparently, not a damn thing.  I stared at him with a menacing "BOY-IF-THIS-AIR-BETWEEN-US-WASN'T-HOLDING-ME-BACK-BECAUSE-IT-PROBABLY-HAS-SOME-TYPE-OF-POLLEN-IN-IT-AND-I-HAVE-ASTHMA-I-HEAR-MY-MOTHER-CALLING-BUT-I-WOULD-MESS-YOU-UP-IF-IT-WEREN'T-TUESDAY!" look, which I know put fear into his heart.  

After everyone could see that our "fight" consisted of one punch, Deion was cleared out and I was left staring after him with that menacing "way too long of a phrase to write again" look.  

At that moment the instructor crushed my soul.

In a deathly silent room full of boys all suppressing the irresistible urge to laugh when you have seen someone get punked she looked at the one tall boy in the middle of that room who had been punked and said with pity in her eyes, "Young man, you did a good thing." 

What I just wrote is what she actually said, but there are three different things I heard:

#1 "Young man, are your testicles the size of raisins or lint?"

#2 "Young man, do you like this skirt.  I am going to buy you one to wear tomorrow.  Would you like red or purple?"

#3 "Young man, your momma called.  She said you can't come home until you punch him back."

Looking back, I know she was saying what she felt.  Having enough restraint not to fight is sometimes the best way to prove your manhood.  The site of two young black kids fighting over some nonsense was definitely not what she signed up for and I know she was relieved to not have to see that from her people.  But I realize all of that in hindsight.  At the time, I could not think of anything more mortifying unless right after that my mother ran into the room grabbed my face and gave me several kisses while she yelled, "DID HE HURT YOU, MY BABY, MY BABY!!"  That did not happen so the teacher's toxic reassurance was my worst nightmare.

Ladies, some day you may have some slides of vajayjays and want to teach a room full of elementary school boys about sex education.  You may be faced with a young man who looks like a pre-pubescent Mike Tyson talking too much.  You may ask him to leave and as he is leaving the most handsome, manly and suave 5th grader you have ever seen may say something smart to Iron Mike.  Iron Mike may KUMITE the side of Mr. Suave's head.  Mr. Suave may stand up and stare down Iron Mike with a "I'm forced to do this right now, and I don't know what to do next" look.  Iron Mike may get escorted out by the authorities (Janitor). 

Let me tell you what you should say next.

"PENNISSSSS!!!  PENISSSS!!!"  At the top of your lungs.  With everything you have in you, you need to be yelling "PENISSS!!" and if you choose you can include a few "VAGINNAAAASS!!".  I know, it doesn't make sense now but I will connect the dots in a few sentences. 
                           Iyanla gets it:

Eventually, the authorities (Janitor) will escort you out of the classroom and building as you are yelling these obscenities.  You will never be allowed to teach sex education again and you may have your privileges to be around small children again revoked, but here is what you will gain.

A room full of boys will believe they have witnessed the greatest freakout in the history of the world and all they will remember is there was some fight (who was in it again?) and then THIS LADY JUST STARTED YELLING PENIS AND VAGINA!  After a few years the only part they will remember is your freak out.  But there is one boy, Mr. Suave, who will know what really happened.  He will know you took the fall for him that day, and you deflected attention away from his emasculating moment.  He will always remember you just the way you are.

Join me next week as I continue this journey.  I might even write down something I ate and get back to walking. 


Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday #4-Strange Calmness

"How still,
How strangely still,
The water is today,
It is not good,
For water,
To be so still that way."

"Sea Calm" by Langston Hughes

The story of my life has been being uncomfortable with comfort.  Impatient with calm and nervous about compliments.  When there have not been actual terrors I have created them in my mind and stressed myself out with false realities.  I have worried about what other people would think, and I have not done more with my life because of virtual obstacles instead of real ones.  In short I have held myself back.

When I was a kid my sister and I would dare each other to do things.  My mother used to put my sister's hair in pig tails, one on each side of her head.  I once dared her to cut one of her pig tails off.  She took a pair of scissors, put them to her pig tail, and I just remember hearing "shhhrrrkkk" as she cut it off.  I don't remember exactly what my mother said, I just remember the look on her face.  Her lips curled in to her mouth, her eyes formed a squint--there may have been lasers coming out of them, but I am not sure--and she was extremely unhappy.

The dare I most vividly remember involved a staircase with metal bars.  My parents were down stairs in the den and my sister and I were upstairs--for some reason near the stair case.  Either I said, "Hey dummy I bet you I can put my head in those bars!" or she said, "Hey fool I bet you can not put your head through those bars!"  Either way my life would not be complete until my head pushed through those bars.

My disclaimer is that whey you are young you are literally stupid.  There is no better word to describe your state of mind. defines "stupid" as: "lacking ordinary quickness and keeness of mind; dull."  At that moment I lacked ordinary quickness and keeness of mind--one could say I was dull.  So with that disclaimer out of the way, I was ready to DO THIS!!

If you ever want to get your head through bars the first rule is: DON'T DO IT!  The second rule if you ignore the first is if you really want it to be painful: JUST USE YOUR HEAD!  Don't try to use your hands to open the bars a little bit, don't do anything else but push your head (whatever size) through those bars.  See, I am all about following rules--so I skipped the first rule and jumped straight to the second.  My goal was to get my head through the bars, so I pushed and pushed and pushed.  My sister watched me I know, and I did not see her face but I imagine it looked like this:

I kept pushing until the top part of my head was in--YESSS!  Then the bars hit my ears--NOO!!  It really hurt to push my head through while mushing my ears but my thought process was, "Ears, who needs ears, I want to push my head through these bars and my ears won't stop me!"  *Please go back up and read my earlier disclaimer* 

                              Knows what I was talking about:

I pushed past the pain of mushing my ears and my head was finally through!  Now here is the thing, when you make it your goal to do something horribly stupid and you accomplish that goal the reality of what you did starts to set in.  It was hard to get my head in between those bars.  It felt impossible to get my head out.  And I tried, but all that kept happening was the portion of my head right behind my ears was banging into the bars and hurting.  I was freaking out, because I could not turn my head and the first rule of life when you are a kid is that if you stick your head through bars and can't turn your head then monsters will immediately eat you from behind.  This rule is true even if your sister is right beside you freaking out. 

I could no longer remain stoic and keep my cool so my parents would remain unaware of my dumb action.  Which means that one second after I realized my head wasn't coming out I was screaming like a banshee. 

                                             A banshee:

Now this happened a long time ago, so I only have shadows of memories.  Let me paint the scene.  My mother was definitely screaming.  My father was grabbing and trying to "yank" me out of the bars while trying to bend them with his hands at the same time.  My sister told me later that "Country Crock" was involved and liberally rubbed all over my neck, face and hair.  If you don't know what "Country Crock" is just know that they had the best voiceover commercials on the planet, the container was made of a beige plastic and contained more "butter like substance" than you could ever use in one lifetime.  I believe the whole tub was used on me. 

After much heroic yanking and bar bending my father was able to pull me out.  I don't remember the hugs and kisses, but I do remember the spanking.  My Pops immediately started spanking me which probably only lasted a few seconds before my mother told him to stop.  Now of all of the few spankings I ever received, this was the only one even then I knew I truly deserved.  My parents did not go "Tsk-Tsk son, you are such a card!  You know better than to push your head through staircase bars and nearly cut off your circulation and give us both heart attacks.  We won't do anything like that again will we?  We will do better next time won't we?  We are not amused.  Do you want a hug?"  It was more like, "POP, POP, POP!  What the h*ll is wrong with you! POP!"  

I don't know what the parental gene is called of desperately worrying about your child's safety, but then when you know they are safe wanting to put the fear of God into them.  I fully understand it as a parent now.  You want your children to be their best, but you understand mortality.  The young often think they are invincible and the older you get the more you know that man is mortal.  Doing stupid things can kill you. 

My parents were terrified, I know this because my mother was screaming and my father was trying to yank me away from metal bars.  They had never dealt with a child who stuck his fat head through bars before.  If you asked them now they could give you a dissertation on the angle you should pull the child and the flavor of "Country Crock" that is best to remove said child.  But, back then they were only a little older than I am now and terrified that their youngest son was going to lose his head on the staircase. 

I didn't lose my head folks.  I did not, however, stop doing stupid things.  I could tell you about the time I stabbed myself while trying to open a can of soup with a steak knife, or about the time I picked up a hitchiking "potential" crackhead and got stopped by the cops who made us get out the car, or the time I put a battery to my braces---I think I should stop now.  As of 10:35 p.m. on Monday, September 22, 2014 I am 321.9 pounds.  I am still on track and feeling good.  I have to count my calories more and eat better--but I am feeling positive about my progress.  Stay on my journey with me and I will see you next week.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday #3--Took a Risk

"Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again."
-Nelson Mandela

I was in 5th Grade and I thought I was in "love" with this girl in my school...let us call her Leticia.  I lived in a house with my sister and my mother that we rented in this tiny culdesac and Leticia lived in a neighborhood close by that was separated from us by a large chain fence.  We used to talk at that fence for what I remember as being days on end, but more accurately was probably about thirty minutes since my mother would yell for me to come inside and I would awkwardly say "bye" to her and run into the house. 

I thought she was the sun and the moon. Even though looking back she could probably tell I had a crush on her because I was staring at her across a giant fence in the cold with puppy dog eyes, I did not think she truly understood.  So I devised a brilliant plan. 

It was a Friday and our class was watching a movie.  I expertly placed myself in a seat, which happend to be assigned, that was right behind Leticia.  She was wearing her backpack at the time, this girl was eager to get out of our crampled class and exprience LIFE, and I decided I would send something home with her.  I constructed a note which can only be described as the GREATEST PIECE OF WRITING EVER WRITTEN, in my mind at the time, and waited for the right moment to place it in her book carrier. 

Each time I reached to put the note in her knowledge container someone would cough or a distant cockatoo would crow in the piney field (we had cockatoos that randomly crowed in piney fields in North Carolina) and she would look back and I would pretend as if nothing was more interesting than how the narrator described that one beautiful ant carrying a leaf.  Finally, with sweat dripping down my brow and my heart pounding I gingerly unzipped her backpack half an inch--slipped in my masterpiece--and lightly zipped it back up.  The end-of-day bell rang, she looked back at me suspiciously and as manly as possible I pretended to play a one man game of "Ms. Mary Mack".

That beautiful ant

I left school feeling nervous, scared and excited.  I felt exultant, that I had finally let her know exactly how I felt.  I imagined that she would be melted by my words and we would live a happy and wonderful life together.  I thought about what I wrote and I imagined I had written:

The truest pity of the English language is that no words have yet been formed to describe how incomparably beautiful you are.  No syllables have been constructed that can encapsulate the rapture one feels when they look at the beautiful ivory orbs containing amber jewels some would call your eyes.  There are no sentences that can cope with the magnitude of your majestic shape and the letter has not yet been created that is worthy to capture the elegance of your celestial face.  I, but a humble English speaker can only shape my tongue in archaic manner to feebly attempt to explain the joy your grace and magnificence conveys to my soul.  If you, a goddess, would only kiss your poor servant's unworthy lips then maybe the heavenly speech could come to me to describe but half of your beauty.  One, yet not one as lowly as I, I, but not one as base as me could only hope for such a miracle.

This is what I think I really wrote:

Ummm..I saw you. When I see you my pants feel so tight...not tight like normal, but tight like a different kind of tight...ummm..bye.

Needless to say, I was excited about writing the note and putting it in her knowledge container.  Once she read it she would have no doubt how I felt.  I was sure when I saw her on Monday she would either tell me she felt the same way or we would at least talk about our relationship changing going forward.

I was mistaken.

On Monday, she hardly acknowledged me at all.  Except in the cafeteria line where she was with a group of girls giggling.  She was holding something that looked a lot like my note..and they were having a good old time looking at it, looking back at me, and laughing incessently.  I was embarrassed and I was hurt.  It was not just the laughing, but the fact that she did not acknowledge me at all.  I poured out my heart onto a piece of loose leaf paper--all of my intrepid emotions, the important fact that my pants felt tight around her, and I received no personal response in return.  Did her pants feel tight around me..and if so why?  Nothing.

Fast forward one year and I am in a new school and hopelessly infatuated with another girl...let us call her Denita.  Denita was popular and I liked her not only because she was pretty, but also because everybody else liked her too.  It was human nature, no one would go to an empty restaurant so we gravitate to the things that "everyone" enjoys.

We were all sitting at a lunch table in the cafeteria, (cafeterias apparently hold bad omens in my life) I was probably 5 feet from her sitting on the opposite side.  I received a tap on my shoulder, a young lady said, "Denita wants you to peel her banana!" and thereupon she handed me an unpeeled banana.  I took the banana and looked up at Denita who gave me one of these:

I thought that was a definite sign of "interest" to say the least.  I didn't realize that was the universal face for "is this fool really going to peel my banana"?  I really did peel the banana and handed it back to the girl playing telephone who passed it down the line to Denita.  General giggling ensued and that was it.  I was out of the cafeteria and back in class before I realized I was played.  Again, with no acknowledgement. 

It hurts to be ignored.  It sucks to give something and not receive reciprocation or any recognition of your act.  But that is life.  Those two girls were not anywhere close to the loves of my life.  I already found her and I am building a life with her.  But disappointment and dealing with it, and fighting through it, and learning from it are everything that life is about.  As I go through this journey to lose this 100 pounds I know there will be setbacks.  I need to keep my focus on how good it feels to succeed and how good I will feel to be healthy for life.  At 11:18 p.m. on Monday, September 15, 2014 I am 323.6 pounds.  Still losing weight after three weeks of this journey and still on track.  Keep coming back and stay with me on this journey.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Monday #2-The Chains that I Revere

"It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere."

I like sweet food.  I crave it.  I will do stupid things like get groceries and then "sneak" an Oatmeal Cream Pie (really 2) into the cart and eat it on the way home.  I like drinks that are sweet too, and soda has been a staple of my diet for almost two decades.  Dr. Pepper is always involved with those Oatmeal Cream Pies.  Sugar is a constant in my life.  I also like meat.  Any kind.  Pork, beef, chicken, possum, wallaby...I have actually never eaten possum or wallaby, but if you held up a plate that looked half decent and said, "This is possum or maybe wallaby!" I would take a bite.  We have rabbits that run around in our neighborhood and I always tell my kids and wife that they look "delicious".  This disgusts them to no end, but I find it hilarious and halfway truthful.

Oatmeal Cream Pie

Dr. Pepper


I eat to fill the time, I eat to relax, I eat to not "do" whatever else it is that I am supposed to "do".  I eat late at night.  When everyone else is asleep, I will go down to our kitchen and open the fridge.  I avoid healthier options like an apple, pear, or grapes.  I want something that is sugary--both to eat and drink--because that feels like a meal.  I want to eat something meaty as well so I will both get sugar and salt in the same binge eating session.  

Instead of doing something productive, I seek out the destructive through my late night eating.  I know I need to give that up to achieve this change in my life, but a big part of me finds the habit slightly satisfying.

I have several regrets.  You always hear famous people say, "I have no regrets.  I would not change ONE thing about my life, because if not for those things then BLAH, BLAH, BLAH!!"  That is official bullshit.  Sure, the painful parts of life have put me at this point in my life, but I would change that shiggidy in 1/2 second if I could.  

As an example, if I could go back I would dress up for "picture days" at school.  Why not look good on the one day that the school officially records your picture for all of posterity?  Do I have to look like a homeless troll with non-connecting facial hair in every class picture I have taken?  Could I have added one less wrinkle in my shirt?  Could I have had a haircut within the week before the picture or made my hairline look like anything other than an upside down U?  The answer is "Maybe"...actually it is "YES, DEFINITELY, YES"!!!

2nd regret:  I would have taken full advantage of playing Varsity high school basketball on a team in the great state of North Carolina.  I was able to play a sport that millions of people play, for a team that was able to face incredibly stiff competition and I never took it serious enough.  

I treated it like a hobby, which was not a bad thing since I focused on my academics, but was not intelligent because I limited my options.  I was in the best shape of my life, because I got to jump and run around after an inflated ball all week, but I didn't see the privilege of what I was doing.  People could not walk and dreamed of walking, but I was upset about running so much.  I was a Varsity athlete on a team and guys who dreamed of playing for our team were cut, but I took it for granted that I would get to be on and start on that same team.  If I could go back I would have run more, practiced much more, and WORKED at the game of basketball.  Who knows what could have been?

3rd regret and the biggest one of this essay, I mean blog:  I wish I had been there for my sister when she needed me.  My cloudy memory of this is that my younger sister and I were at a private daycare which consisted of some woman's house who my mother knew.  I was probably ten, maybe older but somewhere around that age.  I remember the babysitter had two kids: a boy younger than my sister and another older son around my age--let us name him SATAN.  Well, for some reason us kids were all left alone outside near the back door and SATAN had some issue with my sister and me.  I remember SATAN reaching back and punching my sister in the stomach.  I remember my sister doubling over in pain and then I remember freezing...doing absolutely nothing after SATAN punched my only sister in the stomach.  

All I remember about that moment is my thought process.  Fear was present, but mostly my mind was going through the rules of civility.  My young mind could not comprehend how someone who knew we were guests in his house, whose mother was inside, could act violently towards said guests, especially said guest who was a small, young girl.  My mind would not allow me to believe what I just saw so my body reacted by doing nothing..not one thing.  I don't remember anything that happened after that.

I am 33 years old.  I have gone to college, law school, got married, fathered two children, and now with my wife I am raising those two children.  My sister and I have gone through so many life experiences since then together and separately.  But that one memory stands out, and I know I could be 97 on my deathbed and if I thought of that moment I would have the same shameful feeling of futility.  

When I relieve that memory I always feel like I am watching my favorite team go down in flames and I just want to yell at the screen, "GODDAMMIT DO SOMETHING OUT THERE!!"  I want to say to her I am sorry that I missed that moment to protect you.  I love you and I would never want to see you hurt like that again.

We do not get time machines in life.  Staying tied to the past is part of the reason I have allowed myself to mindlessly eat my way to my current weight (which as of 10:45 p.m. on Monday, September 8, 2014 is 325 pounds).  If they did make time machines and the machine only allowed me to go back to the moment of my shameful inaction then you would not be reading my blog. You would be reading another blog post called:

The moment I will always live to regret when I punched some kid's sister in the stomach and then he beat me so badly that I lost my ability to say the word "the" properly, use my left arm, walk without a limp, and smell apples.

by SATAN (foreword by Tyler Perry)

SATAN (the lighter version)

Tyler Perry (the actual version)

But we do not get time machines, so I live with that memory.  I have rarely in my life given in to my animal instinct.  With this fight, battling my unhealthy weight, I have to use my mind and my instincts.  I can not afford to be a punk about this or anything else for that matter.  Death does not discriminate and if I keep up my unhealthy habits that or a terrible quality of life are the only options that await me.  I want to live, I want to be happy, and I want to get more moments to show that I can take care of my family.  Join me next Monday to see where I am headed on this journey.  Thanks for watching.