Saturday, August 25, 2012

Coming Home (1 of 3)

I'm sorry for my long absence.
I got distracted.

When I last wrote  on here I was about a hundred pounds overweight, desperately squeezing a novel from my brain through pudgy, oily tobacco-stained fingers like a rusty caulk gun fixing a hole that could only be fixed from the other side.

The hole got bigger. It let in more fat while it tried to fill itself with unhealthy food, cigarettes and intricate stories developed from an overactive, escapist imagination. I should've asked from day one: from what was I trying so desperately to escape? My happiest days were spent in front of a laptop, staring at the screen that was a window to a world of my own construction - where the characters acted how I expected them to act and the universe behaved according to my rules.

The only thing I knew for certain was that I hated my job, and was bitterly angry at this career that with each passing year trapped me in the jaws of experience, dangling me above the fear-of-taking-a-pay-cut pit. At some stage I inexplicably came to the conclusion that the only was out was to join the military.

I was ready to pack up and leave at any moment. Only I was a little too out of shape. Although at some point I finally managed to quit smoking, I was still overweight. So I gave up escaping into the world of plot convenience and instead escaped into the world of cardio, clumsily hammering away pounds on the eliptical machine, afraid to go on the weight floor and look like a complete fool, not knowing that I had successfully completed that task already. I made myself work until it hurt, punishing myself for my excesses, stomping away life's tedium with each cylce, creating artificial exhilaration with the hammering of my heart and yet doing very little good. But yes, I got smaller, dining on WeightWatchers and denying myself the calories my body needed. No food for you, fat boy. 
I was still pear-shaped, but I was a smaller pear.

One day I was happy enough with my weight loss to go ahead and take the next step to joining the military: announce it on Facebook. And then I told my employer and family. I was finally getting out. I was reaching escape velocity. I hired a personal trainer to ready me for boot camp. For the first time in many years, I was really, truly excited about something - not so much joining the military but changing my life for good. I knew that above all else, that was my goal, direction or not.

The trainer introduced me to weights. And as I passed the age deadline for active duty military, I found I wasn't even terribly upset. My mood seemed to be evening itself out. I still loathed going to work (more and more with each passing day) but I had something to look forward to. I started working with my trainer before work just to set the pace of the day right. The worst part of the day was always leaving the weight floor to shower, put on a tie and take the walk out of the gym to my car.

Soon I started working out on my own twice a week. I started taking a group class, and as I discovered a confidence I'd never felt, decided one day that I would teach that class. I met new friends.

The gym became my escape - my therapy and my medication. Walking in, putting on my headphones, melting further into my music with each rep was my new happy place. The pain I caused myself was no longer self-punishing, but a reward that manifested each time I looked in the mirror and discovered a new muscle, or looked at my face and thought "is that really me?" I discovered the adrenaline and endorphin releases that could be found on the weight floor. I was discovering someone deep inside me who may always have been there, but I never bothered to wake up. I was discovering me. The person curled up in a fetal position beneath layers of fat like rings on a tree was stretching his legs.


Mandy said...

Amazingly well written, as always. Well done.

Will Shealy said...

Thanks Mandy!

Elizabeth DeLoach said...

And what a great person he is inside and out. Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us.