Is it possible to exercise demons? Smite them with treadmills and shit?

This post is gonna be a hard slog. I’m operating at 25% capacity today.

I feel swampy right now. In my effort to shunt back to healthier habits, I’ve taken the cold bucket o’ water approach to a couple of things. No coffee today. The duelling tensions of sleep vs activities, artificial vs naturally produced energy, have meant that my coffee use has escalated as of late. It’s been none-too irregular for me to have four or five cups a day. Considering that all bar one of those are shitty brew coffee that I don’t even like, begs the question as to why I’d go there in the first place. Pretty sure it’s a combo of boredom consumption and habitual addiction. Too much coffee has meant flailing afternoons, which have led to crashing in the evening, no energy to get out and do things. I’ve been way less social than I’d like, unless prodded by alcohol. Not the place I want to be.

Drinking a ton of coffee is symptomatic of a larger addiction to consumption. It’s both because of this addiction and a cause of this condition. I feel a need to consume, which extends to filling a cup of coffee. The more I drink, the more my inhibitions are lowered. My sometimes foods, while usually during outside meal times, have become a larger part of my daily intake. I’ll make an exception for something I wouldn’t usually have, then make that same exception the next day “because it was okay yesterday”. Then I feel grumpy and bummed out that I’d veered so widely, leading to eating my feelings later on in the evening. At work our new-ish boss always has a well stocked treat table. If I had the discipline to not be treating myself constantly, I’d exercise it. With the way things have been, it wouldn’t surprise me if a caloric consumption (not that I’ve been counting) of one and a half to two times my normal intake has been the rule, rather than exception.

It’s a dumb, but understandable pattern to fall back into and it’s been throwing my mood way out of whack. I’ve been alternating between extreme grumpiness and fatigue. I’m distractible all the time. It’s shitting on my ability to concentrate on work, turning me into a home-bound mope and making me feel shitty about my body. It sucks. It’s also something that nobody else can really help me with. Sure, there’s emotional support, but emotional support is not habit forming and won’t help me get anywhere. It’s something I need to take care of on my own, because it’s not something I’m doing for anyone else. It’s also far from the first time I’ve hoisted this bugbear atop my shoulders and I’m sure it won’t be the last. As always, a long term view, self-compassion and hard work will be lead me in the right direction. Right now though, it’s slow going.

One foot in front of the other. Again and again.

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C’est la vie? More like sa-lie-va.

A use the urinal often. For peeing, obviously. It’s also one of the select few places (aside from the shower and my hope basin) that I spit. Sometimes if I’m really congested I’ll spit into a gutter or drain outside, but I’m sheepish about it. Spitting in public feels like a gross thing to put into others’ view. The urinal doesn’t feel so bad, provided nobody else is there. It’s not a private shame or anything, but maybe it would really put someone else off. Who knows? In short, what I’m really trying to say is how surprised I am that I only just spit on my dick.

I’ve been alive for 30 years. How did it take so long?

It’s not like I was aiming for it, but neither was I intentionally trying to avoid it. I always assumed it wouldn’t happen. As always, my arrogance was my downfall.

After it happened I froze for a second, unsure as of how to handle this bizarre circumstance. Usually at the urinal liquid comes out of my dick, but doesn’t loop back onto it. It’s not like I pee on my self on the reg, so I was ill equipped for this eventuality. Though I knew I was alone, I looked around just in case before reaching behind me. There’s a paper towel machine behind us with a sensor. I waved my hand underneath and hastily dabbed at it, then tossed it into the bin. Problem solved, right?

But what of my confidence? I’ve used the urinal since and I was a tad shaky (like, before peeing, not in the post pee shakedown). Is this something I’ll need to be cognisant of from here on out? Or can I chalk this down to a one off anomaly? It’s taken this many years, I could rest on my laurels and tag it as a statistical blip in the radar. What if it wasn’t though? What if this is a new trend? Should I be spitting pre/post-pee? Should I skip the spitting altogether? But what will I do when I have excess phlegm? Will I ever even learn how to spell “phlegm” without spellcheck coming in to save my arse? Did I just learn it by having to re-type it?

So many questions and for all I know, the answer is that I’m living a lie.

Things used to be so easy. Ignorance was bliss before fear entered the equation. Now it appears that my ignorance was piss and the harrowing outcome of my wilful recklessness. I’ve been hanging fast and loose (and ten) and my rule has come to an end in the form of drool. I guess the girls on the playground were correct with their astute gender dichotomy.

Heavy lies the crown too large for the head.

Unlike A Simple Plan, I’m not sorry I can’t be perfect. I am sorry for getting that stuck in your head though.

Yup, so yesterday wasn’t a great day brain-wise. It happens. As I predicted, I woke up this morning feeling both fine and dandy. It’s a known phenomenon. Whether it’s due to a lack of sleep, an abundance of stress or feelings of being trapped, some days are rougher than others. I’m fortunate and I mean that with utter sincerity. A rough day for me means still getting up on time for work, eating three square(+) meals a day, going to the gym and recording a podcast. I can operate fine while in a mental fog, I just feel terrible about the world while doing so.

I was still way down in the hole on my way to the Pawdcast and resigned to the idea of a withdrawn episode. Somehow being in that environment shook things up. We had a fun guest and the novelty of offloading endless complaints about a children’s movie based around literal Christmas Magic helped somehow. The episode was great, there was a fantastic flow, emboldened as we were with a bond of support akin to wartime brothers in arms. It’s gonna be a fun one when it finally sees the light of day. I left the recording with both spirit and fugue lifted. Maybe I can attribute this one to some early onset Christmas Magic.

After posting something similar on Facebook, I had an outpouring of support from worried friends. Check ins and assurances, which were both welcome and appreciated. It’s not often that I tend to openly and honestly vent in a public space (outside of here of course), which made the surprise from friends understandable. Thing is, I don’t want this kind of thing to be hidden or an unknown quantity. It’s important to me that stresses, fears and existential dread are out in the open.

People can present a picture of whoever they want to the outside world, but I’m big on authenticity and part of that is admitting when things are shutting down. I don’t want to showcase a shiny life without cracks, ’cause that’s not who I am. I’m a very lucky, privileged person and I couldn’t be more grateful for that. That being said, that insight doesn’t preclude my subconscious from seeing everything turning to shit in my hands. I want friends to know that if they hate the world or hate themselves I hear them, because I get that way too. All the light and positivity in the world doesn’t preclude shadows from existing and sweetness means very little without an understanding of bitterness.

We all cope in different ways. Some better than others. Some of us have built up strategies or plans to compensate. Some of us push to the breaking point, then put ourselves back together. Some of us need a mental dusting from time to time, shake out the cobwebs and re-align. Hell, if I’m gonna spend the next ten days watching three or four comedy gigs each night (in lieu of decent sleep) it’s probably better to have gotten this out of the way before Space Madness sets in.

There’s a difference between venting and seeking validation. As you can tell, it’s pretty slim.

Having one of those brain days where everything feels like a festering pile of shit. It’s fine, because I know I’ll wake up tomorrow feeling normal, in love with my life. Today though, I’m questioning why. So you, the lucky reader, gets pure stream of consciousness. Let’s get back to our roots!

Today I’m wondering how some days I wish my arms were twice the size so I could hug myself all over, then others I question whether it’s possible to loathe myself any more than I already do. I wonder when I’ll be funny enough, smart enough, attractive or desirable enough, informed enough, aware enough and what “enough” even means. How do you decide where you want to be when you have no earthly idea what form that takes? Why persist in this quest to find passion when that feels like too much work, when you could just dwindle away in obscurity instead? Why give a shit about anything when you don’t know what you want and even if you did it would seem too hard? Why do people care when you don’t? Why do people think you have it together while inside you’re crumbling, splintering into pieces too fragmented to ever come together?

I once interviewed an embalmer. I asked her what the worst thing she’d ever had to do was. She said some girl once got hit by a truck. Little girl, somewhere in the range of 5-8 years. She shattered, just came apart. Some of the pieces were smaller than a five cent coin. It was this embalmer’s job to put “humpty dumpty” together again. How do you even do that? Look at this scattered mess of skin, organs, bone, hair and muscle that used to be a tiny human who formerly lived, breathed, laughed, cried and loved her parents and think that there’s any justice, mercy or meaning to any of this? We’re all just bits, so many gross, squishy bits and after all this is done we’re just gonna be bits again.

Why am I doing this? Any of this? Why am I writing every day when I very obviously stopped caring so many entries ago? When was the last time I wrote something I was proud of? That wasn’t putting words on a page to fill a daily quota? What’s keeping me running? Some ill-conceived sense that it’ll lead somewhere? Or just inertia? How am I gonna sit in front of a microphone for an hour tonight, recording the tenth episode of a podcast about a fucking children’s film, that only started because of a one note joke? Why will there be a warm body hugging close to mine tonight when we’re both gonna be nothing but bits in the end? How has she not wised up and left yet?

Why is society such an overgrown rot? Why is anyone ever sure of anything? How do we keep butting heads with some misguided notion that we’re right, or that there is such a thing as being right? When are we going to cede that we’re all a little bit wrong and things wouldn’t be as polarised as they are if we didn’t constantly tell the other side that they’re assholes for thinking differently? How do we think that’ll help? As if calling someone out doesn’t immediately make them raise their hackles and stop listening to what we’re about to say because they don’t want to hear that they’re wrong? How can I say this knowing that people feel real, true, bone deep pain and it’s in every way reasonable that they’re gonna want to lash out, even if it’s the reason that we’re all gonna fail without getting anywhere? Because it’s so easy to confuse hurting someone who hurt you for actually feeling good. That utopia will never be possible because all of us, no matter how open-minded we are, don’t really want that, we just want to be right, affirmed and validated. We want to be heard and told that we’re not the problem, but we all are in some tiny way. Thinking that any of us have it figured out is the biggest joke of all.

It’s fine to not feel okay. Pretending otherwise doesn’t help anyone, least of all yourself. Be vulnerable, accept that sometimes you’ll fall apart and that’s just part of picking up the pieces and putting them back together again. We’re all broken and admitting our own weakness is what makes us human. We’re all just bits in the end, right?

Plus, there’s always tomorrow.

I haven’t even read the small print. Do they now own my body?

Welp, the gravy train was good while it lasted. If you’ve ever heard me raving about my amazing benefits, I’ll no longer be in a position to gloat come September 1st. To be absolutely clear, this isn’t a “sky is falling” scenario. What we had was unbelievable, and now we’re getting benefits that are still perfectly reasonable, just not the hyper-real gift we were previously entitled to. It’s not like this is a sudden shock either. We knew that there was no realm in which we’d still get unlimited physiotherapy. I guess we maybe didn’t expect that to plummet to $500 per annum.

I lied. We knew the drop would be that severe. I’ve been getting all I can out of the system. I’ve worked through a bunch of injuries and muscle spasms. I’ve learned about taking care of tight muscles and the valid exercises for getting rid of knots. I have a much greater appreciation and knowledge of how the human body’s musculature operates and that’s all thanks to the amazing services my benefits enabled. Hell, we’ve still got until the end of the month and I intend to squeeze what I can out of the well until it runs dry. I certainly didn’t touch my optic or major dental benefits, that’s for sure.

So losing physio isn’t the biggest deal in the world. I’ve gleaned what I could and I’ll take that on to whatever physical challenge I next take up. The bigger loss though? Therapy. Under my new plan we get $500 per year for psychologist visits. That’s down from $1500 under my old plan. If an hour’s visit costs $170, it’s manageable to work through some stuff within a $1500 budget. A third of that means you’re getting three visits and you’re still shelling out a little. Gutting. It took me a while to find a therapist that fits me. A therapist who communicates in a style that fits my very particular manner. A therapist who doesn’t feel like they’re condescending, who isn’t afraid to challenge me, poke and prod at tough emotional welts knowing that I’d rather work through something than around it. I have the right therapist at the moment and sadly I’m not gonna be able to keep visiting her without shelling out a bunch of spare change. We’ve taken on a heap of body image issues, personal values and self-motivation. We’ve unpacked a ton of social anxieties and o’erlept personal stumbling blocks together. It’s a process and there’s still a ways to go. Unfortunately by the looks of it she’s taken me as far as she can right now.

The last piece of the puzzle when it comes to losing these benefits is my medicine coverage. Once again, because we have a great plan, we get 100% coverage for approved prescription medicines. All my life I’ve been plagued by a permanently stuffy nose and environmental allergies. Through the magic of coverage and medical science, I’ve done away with my lifelong issues and I finally understand what it’s like to breathe normally. It’s amazing, my nose doesn’t even whistle when I inhale. Our coverage for selected prescriptions is at least 90% covered, with 70% for non-approved prescriptions. Fingers crossed that my required drugs are on the list, but if not at least there’s still coverage, right? I’ve become quite enamoured with this whole breathing thing.

At the end of the day, I’m still super fortunate to have benefits. Just because something’s been amazing for you, it doesn’t mean that getting less equals losing everything.

In which I lose my shit in all manner of speaking.

As I was walking down the street (technically north, so maybe up?) about two minutes ago (though likely hours or days ago by the time you read this) I saw a discarded microwave. No big deal, right? Thing is, this microwave looked old. Like, grew up riding penny-farthings old. Or hipster. This microwave had clearly seen some shit. It reminded me of the old Panasonic Genius we had for years. We would’ve gotten a decade out if that thing, easily. By the time we retired it, it wasn’t the most powerful household nuke around, but it was still carrying its weight. I bought a microwave two years ago. I’m not convinced it’ll last another one. I remember my parents’ first coffee machine. They loved the fucking thing. It was noisy enough to teach me to accept (tolerate? Deal with? Endure?) mornings, but it made a great cappuccino. I used to do my own fluffy hot chocolates (which Dad dubbed the “chococcino”), so I learned to love the thing too. More expensive and effective options were released, but as far as my Dad was concerned, it still made a damn fine cup of coffee (even if it did rattle constantly and the handle fell off if not gripped just so). They got over 20 years out of that machine. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was higher on the family member hierarchy than I was. I couldn’t make a decent cuppa.

I often contemplate how disposable our society has become. We progress, upgrade and outgrow the past with a voracious hunger. The new iPhone comes in rose gold? Hold the phone! Wait, ditch the phone, get a new one. People are replacing powerful technology as often as they change their sheets (please don’t judge my terrible hygiene) and it’s as absurd as it is understandable. We’re so often told not only what we need, but what we deserve. We should have the quality of life we desire and quality is defined by what we have not what we do. If temptation doesn’t work on us, fear is the next great motivator. How can you be everything you want to be if you don’t look the part? Oh Christ, do I sound like a teenager ranting against the evils of capitalism? I swear I’m going somewhere.

The world has changed to a place where holding on to the past seems unsustainable. Evolve or become obsolete. We don’t know how to take care of things any more, because that’s not part of the sales pitch. Use it until it’s refuse. Discard, acquire. I’m saying this from a place of experience, because I do the same thing. I wish I had the ability to maintain anything, but I’m part of a generation with very few practical skills. If something breaks, the thought of nursing it back to health seems like all too much work. I don’t know how to repair a vacuum. My sartorial skills are limited to small stitches along seams. If my microwave broke I’d resort to cannibalism in under an hour. Time is such a commodity and if I don’t know what to do with a product, the ordeal of bringing it in to a specialist then forking out 70% of the initial price seems more costly than buying a new one. Hell, I can order it from my rose gold phone with a few clicks (jokes. My phone is clunky as shit), why would I expend the effort?

The answer really is that value is a fluid concept and has changed with the passing years. Time means everything. It moves too fast and it’s something you just can’t buy. Money comes and goes. Time is finite. Everything ages at a rapid pace and modern life seems like a struggle to out outrun it. If it seems like I’m making this into an undue crisis, it’s entirely self-perpetuated. I’m the one with a problem, manifesting my own fears into this absurd societal view. I’m afraid of living in a disposable reality. Afraid that I’ll cease sticking with things if they seem too much to deal with. Afraid that I’ll become so obsessed with getting everything done that I’ll forget to make memories along the way. I’m afraid that I’ll mistake quantity for quality and my life will be poorer for it. I’m afraid that maybe I’m the disposable one and I just don’t know it. Am I building anything to last? Am I heading anywhere with purpose? Or will I end up discarded once my worth has diminished?

To be honest, I think I’m just mopey because I for real shit my pants today. I gambled on a fart and lost. Senility has already struck.

Why yes, I do have carry on to declare.

It’s late, I’m at work, let’s get’er done. I’m taking a few days off at the end of the week for what constitutes as my only holiday this year. Because we’re criminally understaffed, a holiday isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. A holiday means a select number of days I don’t have to be in the office. It has no bearing on the amount of work I need to do. By the time I leave, I still have to complete all the work I would’ve done for those days had I never left, but on those days preceding my vacation. In short, I have a ton more to get through. In a normal day I’d have five logs to fill. I did 14 today. This kind of quantity makes the work tiring and repetitive, but hey, podcasts still exist. I’m not losing my mind, instead I’m focusing on people who are smarter and funnier than me saying insightful and witty things while I politely chuckle (read: openly guffaw. To the disgust and annoyance of the rest of my open plan office floor, I’m sure). So what’ve I been listening to?

The most recent This American Life really struck a chord with me. It’s probably one of the best personal accounts of what being fat does to your psyche. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’ve dealt with weight issues for most of my life. I was a fat kid and it made me miserable. Don’t get me wrong, I had a pretty good childhood, but being taught by society to hate myself wasn’t my favourite part of it. I lost weight over time by a combination of physical exercise, dieting and increased nutritional awareness.

At 15 my mum brought me to the gym at 5.30am before school three times per week. After some time I took my exercise into my own hands and kept up with it. I tried boxing and regular gym sessions. I did crossfit consistently (up to 6 times a week by the end of it) for a few years. I saw my base weight drop every few years and my goal weight shift with it. From 95kg to 90kg. 87kg, 83kg. A drastic dietary change brought me down to 78kg. An extended period of extreme caloric cutting (1400 kcal per day with 6 hours of exercise a week) got me to 74kg until I eventually settled around 76kg. You know what my goal weight was? 70kg. Do you know what I’d have to do to lose six kilos at this point in my life? I’d probably have to kill a guy, engage in a Faustian bargain or, like, stop drinking for a year. This wasn’t some quick fix, it was a total overhaul of lifestyle that brought with them incremental changes. Going from 95kg to 76kg took about ten years altogether and it was a struggle the whole way.

One thing “Tell Me I’m Fat”, the This American Life brought back to me was the change in the way I was treated. As one of the episode’s guests mentions, people look at you differently. It wasn’t until I found people smiling back at me on the street or in customer service interactions that I realised it was a new experience. Women would actually look at me, which was a world away from how I’d always lived. It was a double edged sword. On one hand, the validation was amazing, the respect, even. On the other, I mourned for all those years of feeling less sub-human, knowing that in part the sentiment came from a place of truth. I felt pretty disposable, as if who I was mattered less than what I looked like. Even now, trusting people’s good intentions can be a nebulous thing. It’s still hard to believe that partners even want me, and if anything rocky comes up in the relationship I assume it’s because they no longer do. Would they really give a shit about me if I was carrying another 20kg? They didn’t before. It’s not rational, it’s an instinctive emotional response based on outdated information. If only that stopped it happening.

I still find the forgiveness in self-acceptance to be elusive, and I wish it were any other way. I wish I could look in the mirror and see the amazing things my body does, not the ghost of what I wish it was. Maybe one day. Until then though, I’ll be searching old tomes for demons to resurrect.