Wednesday, June 4

"You Know It Don't Come Easy"

I admit it: I deal poorly with failure. You'd think I'd have adapted by now. That by this age of 42, I'd have evolved some kind of gentle but firm, persistent discipline that my friends have so often had. I so admire that. I sometimes think the people I've chosen as friends have often been people with the qualities I most lacked.

This is an odd thing to admit--and will just make me sound like an egotist--but I was blessed, or maybe it's cursed, with a seeming gift for naturally acquiring skills. Just about anything I've ever wanted to do in my life, I decided to do, and it turned out I was pretty talented in that area. From sports to music to intellectual topics to creativity of many kinds, it didn't matter. It's always just been a given.

When I was 12 at the skating rink they made me race the 18 year olds and start halfway back the rink and I still beat them. When I was in 5th grade my teacher used my SAT scores to talk with the class about 'potential' because I'd scored at college level in every area (I think Math was slightly lower). (Irony: I nearly failed 5th grade. My mom died late the year before and I wasn't real happy then.) In high school I read the textbooks the first couple days, aced most the tests the rest of the year that were based on it, to the fury of my friends who studied and did more poorly, and I read science fiction the rest of the time. (Not surprisingly, I nearly failed most of high school, too.)

When I decided to teach myself guitar as a teen, my friends, who'd had years of lessons and were working on the same music I was, practiced daily in earnest. I played around for 15 minutes, ignored it for a week, and was better than them by the next weekend, as if my subconscious were working on it. They'd get furious at me, at how unfair it was. They were right: it was. When I decided to enter the local (today they'd call it "Indie") scene with my original music, people were so ridiculously nice to me I kept looking at them suspiciously. Musicians better than I'll ever be would just unfold from the woodwork to talk with me and play with me and invite me to stuff. From trivial skills like soul-train dancing as a kid to more useful stuff like subtle language skills for hypnosis/NLP, to a long list of business skills and insert-anything-here, I've had it remarkably easy in life.

My life has been significantly difficult in other areas. Maybe the universe is compensating.

And so... I didn't learn to practice. I didn't learn much discipline. I didn't learn anything about persistence. And because anything I bothered trying to do, I did well with remarkably little effort--and I didn't do things that I wasn't good at I suspect, and didn't need to since I had plenty of other choices--I never learned to deal with failure.


When I gained a couple hundred pounds quickly, and dieting by the high-carb standard didn't do anything for me (except make me so miserable I didn't think I could survive it), I was at a loss. I was 24 and for the first time in my life I had utterly and completely failed. Not only had I become terminally uncool -- so much that the career in music I planned since I was 5, my hundreds of songs in a binder from the time I was a teen, were all for nought -- but then as if to nail that case closed, my diet efforts failed abysmally to change it.

I didn't know what to do to fix it. I did everything by the book, hard and perfectionist, and failed. Given no female in my mom's family had successfully avoided being huge, I figured that was it, I was doomed. Baffled by my failure, and having no idea how to handle it, I went another way: after deciding (barely) not to shoot myself, I just immersed myself in my work and personal interests--generally those which did not require being physically seen by another human being.


There is a thing sometimes called state-specific consciousness that refers to memory being associated with certain states of mind. For example, if in one state of mind you had experience A and learned skill B, then for some people, in a different state of mind, they might have a fairly minimal grasp of that memory and skill--but if they shift their state of mind back to where they were 'present' when those experiences happened and skills developed, the memories and skills are fully accessible to them. It's a bit of a phenomenon.

I'm a high hypnotic and I've got a good deal of this. Half of what I've done through my adult professional life I probably couldn't do today, without regressing to a mental state much like I had when I did that work (by imagining myself in that situation/etc.), and I assume that as usual, I'd pick up the memories and skills again. In some areas of my personal life -- including my obesity -- this has an odd way of surprising me.

(Aside from that: there is a TV show called The Pretender that I always felt was a more-advanced version of some innate skill humans have access to, and that's like a secondary part of the phenomenon: the ability to put oneself in a state of mind that is so highly 'receptive' to every kind of subtle information, memory and more, that one can do more than the objective time/info-invested would imply they should be able to. Some would call this psychic; others would just consider it having access to a vast database of mnemonic, subconscious information.)


I recently attempted some half-squats, and had dismal luck with them. I'm sure with something firmer to hold onto I will do ok. I can do a full squat but my knees feel terror. (Literally, and speaking of 'phenomena': the sense I have is that the fear is felt by my knees, not my head for my knees. Odd!)

I was SO ANGRY that I couldn't just DO it, that I ended up just stomping out, this was days aog, and haven't gone back to my weights room since.

Because: I really have a problem with failure.

I just need to accept that I am not a 19 year old tennis playing windsurfing judo throwing California girl fashion zombie performer anymore... I am a 42 year old mega-morbidly obese midwestern mom now. It just keeps pissing me off!

So the reasonable question is: If you're 42 years old, and you've been insanely fat for nigh on 20 years, why aren't you used to it already? Why is a full mirror or store window a ghastly, horrifying shock? Why is who and what you are now surprising in any way? What part of the last 20 years didn't prepare you for your condition of today?


The reality is that I have deliberately paid so little attention to myself for the last 20 years that it seems like there was the me that was 'aware' all that time ago, and then the me that is just waking up to being more aware of myself today... as if the 20 years in the middle, in terms of my perception of self, have been bizarrely condensed into a few weeks of moments of attention separated by long duration periods of denial.

So now that I am finally "paying attention to myself" more, it feels like, "Whoa, what the -- what?! You have GOT to be kidding me!"

I can't believe I can't do a squat. I can't believe that my eight pound dumbbell weights are plenty. I can't believe I wear a 5x (if slightly stretchy) pants size. I can't believe that horrible image in the pictures is me. I can't believe that reflection in the store window is me. I am stunned, even dumbfounded at times, as if I woke up one day in the body of someone different, and the dreams got me used to life and the history, but the conscious self is completely unadapted to my new reality.

Because I quit paying attention. When I realized (or believed) that I could not change my weight, that I could not salvage the future I planned until then, that I could not bear the horrible fact of my rather swift and profound obesity, the ghastly spectre of it overwhelmed me, and I just . . . tuned out.

And so, the realization, and the frustration, and the coming-to-terms, that I should have done at the age of 24, I am now doing at the age of 42.

And despite that I consciously understand my condition--I don't even try to run, for example--still, the dominant part of me thinks that I should be as tough and athletic as I was last time I knew me--last time I was paying attention.

That part of me thinks that it ought to be easy, like everything used to be. That I ought to be able to go in there and lift weights, or whatever else I might want to do, and do very well with it. That I should pick an intelligent eating plan like the one Regina outlined and within days, weeks, months, be the poster child for nutritional good sense as a result.


I am regularly amazed that eating low carb, AND eating healthily, AND getting exercise, are only easy until they are hard. Too often so far, on the day something gets hard, I quit doing it. Because somehow I have managed to so effortlessly be good at things throughout my life, that I haven't developed the persistent discipline you'd expect from a well-raised farm boy of 10.

So I am also learning, as if I am a small child, about staying with something that is hard. Aside from the business environment (where all those adaptive traits abound in me for some reason, probably for the same reason other skills come easy), I haven't got that trait in my personal life yet.

I'm learning about having to work at something, like my friends did. About having to be persistent, and having to deal with failure -- repeatedly -- and pick myself up, dust off my butt and get back to what I know I want to be doing.


The good news is, low-carb has given me a doorway to success. There was no hope, I thought, all those years ago. There was no point to trying, or to paying attention to myself, if it was hopeless. I used to say, "Only optimists kill themselves. Pessimists aren't surprised their life sucks." I was pessimistic enough about the outlook of my obesity to turn my attention elsewhere, to something I thought I could make a difference with, which was "anything but my body".

Maybe for men looking to lose 20 pounds, lowcarb is a quick fix. But for someone starting at over 500 pounds at one point, even the best eating plan in the world is going to be a very long term effort to lose that extra weight--and it's entirely possible that it will never fully come off. As a result, the "persistence for the long term" becomes more critical in someone like me. Anybody can do some-big-deal for a limited duration. But for the morbidly obese (and diabetic), the lowcarb eating plan is a rest-of-your-life thing.

Lowcarb isn't really a wagon to fall off. There is only one true failure point in low carb eating: when you die. Until then, you have another day, another meal, another hour, another chance to do it right, to drag up the energy to eat well enough to feel well enough to move well enough to lose well enough to change your life. You gotta start somewhere. For some of us it's a lot higher than others.

But no matter the reason someone eats lowcarb, one truism exists: on lowcarb ketogenic, the eating part is the easy part. It's the wrapping your head around yourself and where you really are and all the changes you go through, that merely attempting to lose weight (let alone succeeding!) bring on.

It doesn't come fast. It doesn't come without a monumental learning curve about nutrition and metabolism and your own unique body--and mind. It's a long hard road, and it takes persistence -- and the ability to deal with occasional failure in one respect or another -- to succeed.

It doesn't come easy. But it comes.


Marnae said...

Well, you may have gained weight, but you certainly didn't lose your brains or your talent. I love reading your posts. Your insights are really...well, insightful. Thanks for letting us into your world.

kamafood said...

It helps to hear these thoughts, as I sit here in uncomfortably tight jeans due to falling off the wagon that doesn't exist. I know what I need to do and what results will occur. I can do it. It helps to hear others say it, too. As they saying goes, it's only failure when you give up.

I've suffered a similar problem with having many things be easy for me. When things weren't easy (sports, for instance, due to a creeping and unrecognized medical disorder), I just didn't do them at all and affected a moral disdain for them. Smart kids often get a mistaken impression that people will only love you if you're perfect, or that you're only a worthy person if you excel (My friend Lon calls it the "Excellence as Norm" complex). Even when you grow up and realize that's not true, the idea still lurks around in your brain, causing denial, complexes, and other shit.

(sending you an email soon)

Anonymous said...

Did you just write my biography? You write so well the things I feel but can't express.

Anonymous said...

Are you going to talk about it?

Or are you going to do it?