Good ol’ fashioned effigyniality

I’m not entirely sure what I expected out of a Burn, but I don’t think I could’ve planned for any of it.

It’s been so interesting entering wildly different spaces. No matter the theme camp, the unifying factor seems to be an overwhelming generousity of spirit. An excess of gifting, both emotional and of tangible goods. Walking through the grounds, I find myself hustled over by well meaning folk. “We’re having a bacon party” they’ll say. An array of treats greet your eyes. Bacon wrapped marshmallows smothered in chocolate. Cream cheese bacon dip, chocolate covered bacon bit shot glasses filled with vanilla and apple whiskey. An angel stops by the camp every morning with home baked cookies. A cornucopia of culinary delights. Spicy tequila shots, distilled spirits, sangria, midnight poutine, crepes, cold brew and that’s just the fucking tip of the iceberg. Oh, and iceberg lettuce in the free salad bar. My stomach and heart have been so gosh darn replete.

The generousity of activities are a marvel too. Octomassage was something else. Eight people rotating giving the person in the centre a simultaneous massage. Eight sets of hands on your body was an enveloping sensory experience. Everything was consent based, with participants aiming to give the massagee their desired physical release. Having hands on your shoulders, upper back, feet and butt at the same time was unreal. There was such a sense of goodwill, with no ulterior motive outside of making the face down participant feel as great as possible. Especially after having received such a boon, it was gratifying to be able to give back and help others access the same joy.

The most intense experience, however, was the burning of the effigy. I came in cynical about city hippies coming out to the country to set shit on fire. When it came time for the effigy to burn, I was taken in completely. Seeing ashes blow into the night sky, strata falling apart, all consumed by the encroaching flame, it stirred something inside. I began to question the person I needed to become and what I’d have to give up in order to get there. The pain of separation a thousand times over. A life of constant death and rebirth, finding myself again and again. One of our blissful connections, a French Canadian dude, came over to talk to me about the Maori gods. It brought up feelings of regret, guilt. Had I abandoned my homeland? What had I taken with me? Was I too proud to admit the pain of separation? Had my resolution in leaving been the right path? I stared into the flames and wept uncontrollably, wondering when it was I’d find my path in life, instead of the purgatory of aimless drifitng. I found comfort in the arms of my friends as I sobbed into their shoulders. I unravelled, cut open to the world with a vulnerablity I’m not sure I’ve ever felt.

Something in me shifted, and I’ve got no idea how it’s settled. I feel different this morning, attuned with my body and trusting that my mind will follow. I spent time in the sauna, sweat dripping out of my pores. As my bodily fluids drained, I felt something leave me, as if a possession had lifted. I’ve remained naked throughout the day. I joined friends in the field doing naked yoga. I lay bare underneath the sun to feel connected. I’m starting to feel centred. As if I’m coming back to rediscover who it is I am. I’ve got no idea what it is I’ll find beneath the surface, but I know I’m ready for something different.

With no concept of what’s burned away, I’m excited and scared to know what’s left.

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In that case, I’m sure we’ll find some other way to make fun of all those cumulosers.

As I occasionally do, I’m gonna cheat with today’s writing and start by reposting a Facebook comment I made. I’d seen a post about the discourse surrounding being overweight in our society and how nuance is so quickly lost in the shadow of fatphobia.

“A hill that I am willing to die on is that the apparent healthiness of your food intake is not a moral issue. The way that society has developed language around it is bullshit. An entire swath of foods is grouped under the label “junk food”, which automatically gets slammed with negative connotations and we start to associate guilt with our intake. It’s lead to a mentality where you’ll hear people about to eat something sweet and say “oh, I shouldn’t” or “I’ll be bad” and wink. This entire concept can fuck right off to the fiery gates of Mt. Fuck. It’s all predicated upon a ridiculous social fear of gaining weight, as if that’s the worst thing that could happen. What’s more, it only serves to entrench this view in people who have issues with moderation, leading to pointless and unnecessary self-loathing. Then others wield it like a badge, as if your ability to count calories says anything about your character.

Let people enjoy things. Their consumption is not your business.

Edit: Let’s also not forget that for many, cost is a gatekeeper to healthy eating. It’s entirety possible to have a nutritionally balanced diet on a low income, but it requires a ton of education. Nutrition is a minefield of information and most of us don’t really know what’s in our food. Pre packaged and manufactured foods are often far more affordable than their fresh counterparts and this has a trade off. So any kind of snooty moral superiority can take a fucking dip in the Arctic depths of Lake Fuck.”

If you’ve spent any time with my daily writing, you’ll recognise that these sentiments have been repeated ad nauseum. I’ve had to struggle with precious little in my middle class white cis male life. Body issues have been one of the few repeat offenders. While it may seem kinda ironic posting this in the middle of my tussle with the ketogenic diet (I’ve never professed that I’m doing it for anything but weight loss), my hope is that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. The point that I’d like to drive home is that your relationship with your body is a personal thing. Not all relationships are healthy, but neither are they the domain of strangers. In the same way that moral panic has been used through the ages to control mass behaviour (the concept of sexual pleasure outside of marriage as a sin, for instance), being outside a slim definition of physical norms has become aberrant. We’re told that irrespective of health, being overweight is cause for disdain. Hell, even the euphemism “overweight” implies a deviation from the norm. Fuck that noise. What right does a stranger have to cast judgement on your health or worth based on the way you look?

Turnabout is fair play, supposedly, and it’s easy to point the finger back to me. For the past 17 years I’ve pushed myself to the gym three or more times per week. I’ve tried diets, cut alcohol and run to work in order to drop weight. I’ve constantly fought with the scales, yet I’m standing here advocating against demonising people’s weight? I want to be clear, I’m not saying I’m any different or better than you. I have internalised personal fatphobia, I just come by it honestly. As a child I was teased and physically bullied for being fat. It hindered my ability to be confident in myself. I drank deeply from all the media messages telling me that to be successful and admired was to be trim and attractive.

I didn’t feel trim or attractive and as such thought of myself as pretty damn unlikable. At the age of seven I started to believe that if I was to be fat, nobody would love me, I’d never get married, then die alone and childless. I WAS SEVEN YEARS OLD. Isn’t that fucking ridiculous? The only thing seven year olds should care about is the wonder of the universe around them. Not their inevitable entropy. You know what? I bought in. I struggled unsuccessfully with weight loss for years. I started going to the gym at 5.30am three times a week before school at 14. I ascribed to the notion that I would never be liked or desired unless I fit a certain body type.

At 31 I’d love to say that I’ve grown out of it, but you read the keto diet thing. I know that in my brain and heart, I’ll always be fat no matter what my body looks like. It’s absurd, but therapy to unpack and dismantle all that trauma would cost more annually than my salary. My hope is that we as a society improve. That these attitudes die out. That we change the language and perceptions around the way people look to save future generations from needless anxiety.

Until we upload our consciousness to the cloud, anyway.

More like High Confide-lity.

It’d hardly be an exaggeration to say that “nostalgia” was one of my six senses. It’s likely on a higher rung than smell. My nose is a fickle friend, but my brain is so laden with memories that touching, seeing, hearing or tasting something is enough to make me tumble back in time. My friend recently started a dating podcast. It’s in its infancy, but both episodes released so far are fantastic. Of course they are, she’s a real life matchmaker. In the most recent episode, she has a conversation with her husband. It’s great. He’s a wonderful dude and he so eloquently and systematically lays out perceptive analysis of himself and his dating experiences. At the same time, so much of what he said resonated intimately with my own experiences. It was like being 20 again, but with the filter only meaningful life experiences can provide.

I was a different person back in my 20s. Naturally some core attributes were still the same. I’ve always loved words and puns, been obsessed with pop-culture. I’ve been fiercely passionate about the things I’ve cared for since I knew how to form an opinion. At the same time, ten years ago I was still very much learning who I was. Hatching from the shelter of an educational system and crawling out into the adult world meant some harsh lessons were incoming. I had to grow and change in order to truly be my own person.

Yeah? I’m sure you’re asking doesn’t everyone? Sure they do. My particular struggles focused around one thing: Confidence. In some areas I strutted by comfortably. I knew I was smart, capable and likeable. Dating though? I had all the experience and wisdom of a child. Years of being overweight had crippled my self-confidence. I questioned why anyone would find me interesting or attractive. I’d say that I crashed and burned, but frankly it was so rare for me to put myself out there that I rarely had the chance. I’d get these deep and debilitating crushes where one conversation was enough to make me obsessively swoon. I’d waste an alarming amount of emotional energy fretting about how to navigate my interest, how unlikely it was that there was reciprocal attraction, etc.

Po, my friend in the podcast episode I linked above, addresses this well. He mentions how outward approval can become your sole motivation in dating. This hit hard. I used to care so much about how the other person thought about me that I’d disregard how I felt about myself. Clearly I didn’t matter, only they did. If I wasn’t the kind of person they wanted, I needed to be. I’d have to change myself to be commensurate with their desires. Po also talks about pedestal-ing, or infatuation causing you to build up the subject of attraction to a level of idolatry. This would happen to me constantly. I’d see myself as some kind of lower life form, which ironically is the least attractive thing a person could do. My response to my own feelings were directly pushing away the people I wanted to get closer to.

Worse, this had a negative impact in any relationships that followed. By seeing the object of my affection as more important than myself, I developed the habit of forcing myself to mould around their desires. While it was great to invest in someone else and care about them, the unfortunate side effect was disregarding my own needs. I’m sure you can see how this would effect long term relationships, right? Of course they all imploded. Unhappiness does that. I’d become gradually more wound up and embittered and that would seep into my view of the relationship. By exclusively catering to them, I also divested them of the opportunity to give back. People who love each other enjoy being able to help their partners and I was stripping them of that recourse.

I’m on the precipice of my 30th year, and certain things are becoming abundantly clear. Time is a gift. I’ve learned that piece by piece with each passing solar cycle. Each rotation only drives the point home. Perspective is everything. It not only helps us understand why the past occurred the way it did, but how better to shape our future. Dwelling with dread doesn’t serve us one iota, but reflection can help us better see the best path forward.

Or am I blatantly trying to justify watching High Fidelity for the 80th time?

Does it have to be arrogance if I’m Onan it?

It’s that time of year again. Tough Mudder is a mere five days away. I’m on the last leg of prep and those legs are predictably sore. For several months now I’ve been training hard. I’ve sworn off alcohol and bread (not through any anti-yeast sentiment, I’m just aware of how I love to overindulge in those two delectable consumables). I’ve been training hard at the gym, working through dedicated upper and lower body split days. Three times a week I’ve gone for lunchtime runs along the waterfront. It’s been sweaty and taxing, but I’ve seen tangible results.

Was all of this necessary to complete the course? Not in the least. Some of my team members last year crossed the finish line with zero training under their belts. All the hard tack I’ve been devoting each week could easily be seen as overkill. Without putting in the extra yards I could likely still zip through the event without dying halfway through. In previous years however, I’ve been thankful for the extra grit in the tank. Instead of slogging up and down the mountain, I’ve bounced through with the gusto of the Energizer Bunny on coke. It’s turned an endurance race into a celebration of my body’s capabilities. Instead of thanking the fates for my survival, I can thank my limbs, muscles, heart and mind for pulling me through each day with aplomb.

The event has become less of an annual task, and more emblematic of how I tie my own self-worth to discipline. Seeing my body change, feeling renewed energy and acknowledging the strength of my resolve brings me pride. Amongst the multitude of challenges that’re out of my control, I’m emboldened to rediscover each year that not all of them are. As someone who’s struggled with issues of body image and associated feelings of inadequacy, this provides me with fuel to see the best in myself.

At this point, five days away, it’s more important than ever to practice self-love. Masturbatory as this entry is, I mean compassion, rather than anything titillating. I’m not gonna be hitting any new peaks over the next couple of days. The benefits of pushing hard are by far outweighed by the risk of injury. For the rest of the week, I’m focusing on tapering down. Any workouts will be focused more on keeping myself limber. Maybe a short run on Wednesday. Mobility and stretching will be a priority. I’m gonna be eating well and aiming for eight hours of sleep per night. Cutting down the caffeine and quaffing down my greens. With the end in sight, it’s so important that I get there safely with respect for my body.

Feeling present in my skin has given me a vitality I treasure. I’m content when I look in the mirror and give thanks rather than seeking flaws. I feel confidence resonating through my core and that in itself is worth all of the effort. Tough Mudder may still be a few days away, but I’m happy to linger in this for as long as it lasts.

A top notch sunny disposition.

Today was a scorcher (I use past tense because somehow the cloudless sky has grown dark and foreboding. The horizon threatens encroaching thunderstorms). I’d resolved to go for a lunchtime jog in an effort to keep active. I’m lucky enough to have access to both the Toronto waterfront and showers at work. I have very few excuses beyond but I don’t wanna. Looking out at the blazing sun I had misgivings, but stepped out the door and started stretching anyway. I took my place on the bike lane and settled into a steady pace, heat beating down from above. I noticed a figure in front of me jogging away. A shirtless cuddly looking dude. The thought popped into my head man, I wish I had the confidence to do that. I took a second and thought again I could, y’know.

Immediately I had misgivings. I’m so close to work, what if someone from work sees me without my shirt? Doesn’t that cross some kind of unprofessional line? Then again, if I’m outside the office without any visible sign of where I work, do I really treat this as being on the clock? I do it all the time in friend groups. Yeah, but those are communities where I feel safe and comfortable. This is out in public. What if I feel awkward? On the contrary, what if I don’t? What’s really stopping me here, truthfully? Some sense of self-consciousness? When I think about it, the only thing preventing me from doing it is, well, doing it.

I did it.

It felt instantly freeing, as if my shirt had more weight to it than the sweat stained cotton should’ve. A gentle breeze rolled across my body as the sun shone down. Parts of my frame that rarely saw the light felt the kiss of fresh air. My back and shoulders, the patch of skin around my armpits, my chest, my belly, all exposed to the elements. I felt a smile spread across my face as I took it all in, the long forgotten sounds of Foo Fighters’ The Colour and the Shape pounding in my ears. My tired, aching body should’ve told me to give up, but there was something almost euphoric in that moment. The smile stuck.

At times it feels hard to be comfortable and confident in your own skin. Within a society that constantly tells you that you should be better, loving your own body is a choice. A pretty hard choice to make at that. Running in public with my skin exposed came with a certain lightness. My heavy footfalls felt like stones skipping across a pond. Deep breaths felt slight, belying the effort they took. The world took on a magic of its own. I held an appreciation for my body that spread throughout. For the muscle and sinew, bones, blood and skin. For its perseverance in everything I put it through. For the way it bounces back, showing me more love than it often gets in return. For its ability to propel me through the world day by day without fail.

Thanks, man.

A foot in the door still needs to climb eventually.

Screw the preamble. I was at my group mentorship meeting today and the general themes were limitations. What was holding us back from being where we wanted to be? Our “homework” was to watch a TED talk on why most people would never have a great career. It intimated that the vast majority have good careers in lieu of great ones. Those “lucky” enough to have great careers find their way through pursuing passion, saying yes to opportunities and forging ahead even under stormy clouds of doubt. Fear, he said, was the prime reason that truly great careers evade so many of us. It’s not a new idea, but it certainly resonated deep in my gut.

In the mentorship meeting they asked what we were afraid of. I thought about it. I’ve known that I have a debilitating fear of failure for some time. I dug deeper. Why was I afraid to fail? What did failure represent? I have constant ideas, but what stops me in my tracks? I realised that I talk myself out of opportunities all the time. Why? What is it that paralyses me? I dug deeper. When something pops into my head I think hard on it. I conceptualise what form it would take. I consider the steps it’d take to bring it to being. These pile atop one another. More considerations flood in and the pile becomes a towering monolith. A singular entity. All of the tasks combine into an overwhelming obstacle. Fear takes root and it’s too much. How would I be able to tackle all of it? I have a job. I have a social life. I’m afraid to lose precious time on a project that could fail.

Then it hit me. It wasn’t a smooth obelisk, it was a collection of steps. Yes, I’d have to climb to dizzying heights, but the process would be one step at a time. Developments don’t have to happen in an instant, otherwise they’d be called occurrences. The work would consume me, but in the mean time I wouldn’t lose everything I had, it’d fade into the background temporarily.

But still, what if it didn’t work out and it was all for naught? If putting the time and the effort in left me back at square one with nothing to show.

The mentorship facilitator said something that struck me: That while we often think we’ll end up back at square one, we rarely do. We don’t lose the lesson when we lose. I thought how fervent I was when I arrived that I needed to go out and grab opportunities. I said yes to everything because I had no other choice. In doing so, I prospered and grew. I shook myself out of stagnant habits and tried something. I’ve reached a plateau of safety. I don’t have to act out of fear and desperation. You know what though? I accomplished a bunch out of desperation and it worked out great. It didn’t happen instantly, but I got there even if I was afraid. It’s not like I have so much to lose that it’s not worth the risk reaching further.

So I did. After the meeting finished I talked to my mentor. I told him what I wanted to do and why I wanted to do it. I asked him if there was anyone he could put me in touch with to workshop it and make it a reality. He said he’d set something up tomorrow.

What have I got to be afraid of?

If I cast far enough, shit might get reel.

Sometimes a moment of clarity will just strike you from out of nowhere. Like a bolt flung from the hands (or tentacles, let’s be real here) of a deity, an epiphany. While I was voicing yesterday, somebody from the station dropped into the studio to hang out. When I came out of the booth, she introduced herself. She asked me my background and what I wanted to do. Without skipping a beat, I replied.

“I want to make podcasts.” I said. “It’s something the opposition does, but we’re really lacking behind.” Someone else chipped in “We have them.” I nodded and replied “we do have them, but the breadth of subject matter is pretty limited, which seems weird considering the vast Intellectual Properties we have access to and our company’s push for consumer engagement. If having a social media presence is so important, why not offer them cause to spend time with us while they work? Give them even more reason to engage with our brands. It’s an intimate, personal medium. Selling the idea to consumers that we’re their friends? It’s hard to buy that kind of marketing. Why not do that?” I stopped ranting. All three people in the room were quiet, nodding.

Where the fuck did that confidence come from?

I’ve had vague ideas about professionally producing podcasts before, but haven’t given it a whole lot of serious consideration. Then all of a sudden that torrent came tumbling out of my mouth. Who would pay me to do it? Where would the funds come from? Today though, I’ve been thinking about it more. Who better than a large corporation? It’s not like they’d have to invest in infrastructure. They have the equipment, the hosting. They can handle traffic and would have umpteen ways to promote it. They have on-air talent. They have content that invites both discussion and promotion. We know that there’s a market for it, given the near ubiquity of podcasting. All it needs is someone to go to bat for it.

I’ve been struggling a bit lately in multiple areas. Aside from near constant impostor syndrome (though I assume this is a universal part of the human condition), I’ve been feeling really down on myself. For years I had a fire burning, mantra of Make it Happen running through my head. I felt indomitable and pushed forward constantly. The past few years have felt like a rut professionally and I’ve started to doubt whether or not I’m a capable person. It’s been harder to get motivated and excited about things. Self-esteem has given way to recursive negative self-talk and I’ve started to stop believing that I deserve opportunities.

This past weekend was spent in the constant company of friends. A couple of them were people I’m quite close with, but most were casual acquaintances. I had an amazing time, but one thing stuck out to me. Almost universally, people there saw me as quick witted and down for anything. They assumed I took chances and opportunities, that I was creative and hard working. Good-natured, compassionate and funny. They saw me as the kind of person I want to be, a person who boldly follows their desires and makes things happen.

I feel like I used to be him. That if circumstances align, I become him again. I realised just how much I want to be as my friends see me. I want to take risks and be okay with failing. I want to put in effort because a lesson learned is the worst outcome. I want so badly to believe in myself again.

If others do, what’s stopping me?