Archive for July, 2017

More Hand Gestures for Driving

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 27, 2017 by sethdellinger

The other day, I was driving and I saw someone use one of the hand signals you are supposed to use to signal a turn if your turn signals aren’t working.  It got me thinking about nonverbal hand signals we can use to other drivers on the road.  There are the turning hand gestures, the “you go first” gesture, and “the bird”, and that’s about it.  It got me thinking how great it would be if we had a longer list of “official” hand gestures we could use to easily communicate to other drivers.  Here is a partial list of what I think would be very useful for us all to learn, although I have no idea what the actual gestures would look like, but we need some that mean these things:

–“I know you waved me to go first, but really, I think you should go first.”

–“I’m only changing lanes really briefly.”

–“I’d prefer you not drive that close to me.”

–“Are you a police officer?”

–“I really like your sunglasses.”

–“I still buy CDs.”

–“Who is your favorite Golden Girl?”  (note: there would need to be hand signals for each Golden Girl, including Stanley.)

–“I wish I could grow a mustache.”

–“I am not personally responsible for this traffic jam.  Would you like to get to the bottom of who is?”

–“I’m really more of a ‘dog person’.”

–“How about this weather?”

–“I can give you some pointers on how to go vegan, if you’d like.”

–“Do you happen to have a bathroom in your car?”

–“Wow! We’re both going super fast!”

–“Stop texting!”

–“Evolution is not a theory.”

–“You know, fellow traveler, driving down this nondescript highway, in a car I am indebted to, toward a job I hate, has me feeling like just a cog in a sinister capitalist machine.  Good day to you!”

–“I just had carpal tunnel surgery.”

–“*HAZARD LIGHTS*”

–“I wouldn’t mind learning the art of topiary gardening.”

These are just a sampling of the standardized hand gestures that I feel could make our lives easier.  Are there any I have left out? Leave your suggestions in the comments!

It’s Going to Be OK

Posted in Memoir, real life with tags , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2017 by sethdellinger

I sat, waiting, in the Big Room.

Around me were gathered about forty others, in the hardbacked plastic seats, under the blare of florescents.  Most were having side or group conversations, hushed, but I sat quietly to myself, waiting.  The Big Room was, naturally, the largest room in the rehab facility.  It was the only room that everyone gathered in at once.  We started our days there with roll call and would cycle back in a few more times each day for various large meetings and activities, and ended most nights there with, typically, something profound or at least an attempt at profundity.  This is such a night.

The hushed conversations come to a halt as the head counselor, Bob, enters the room.  He takes his time situating some papers on a small desk near the front of the room.  We all give him our full attention.  Bob is that rarest kind of person: a truly warm-hearted, immensely kind person who nonetheless is not to be trifled with.  Finally he clears his throat and begins.  “Tonight, folks, we are going to put you in touch with your younger self.”

Bob went on to explain that in a few minutes, another of the counselors was going to join us; I forget this counselor’s name, but she was one of the counselors who mainly stayed in her office and had individual therapy sessions, so her joining us at night in the Big Room was unusual.  Bob explained that she was going to walk us through an experience that was like hypnosis, but was not hypnosis, and this was going to be a special night for us.  Then the other counselor came in, and Bob turned the lights almost all the way off.

“Hello,” she said.  “I want you all to get as comfortable as you can.  If you want to stretch out and lay on the floor, please do, or stay seated if you prefer.”  I stayed in my seat.  “I want you to imagine a house you lived in when you were younger.  It doesn’t matter how much younger, just that it be a time before you started using drugs or alcohol.  Picture the outside of the house.  Now I want you to breathe as steadily, as deeply, as slowly as you can.  Picture the outside of the house and all its details until I speak again.”  Here there was a long pause.  “Now keep breathing just as you are. Slowly but steadily.  Please envision yourself gliding in toward the front door of this house.  Imagine you are a–”

 

I am in the kitchen.  It’s the kitchen of my childhood home, the one on Big Spring Avenue.  I smell the old smell, and the quality of the air.  I blink my eyes to make sure I am seeing this correctly.  I am seated with my back to the den, the open doorway that opens onto the den, and I am looking into the kitchen.  The trusty, dense and solid dining room table sits in the center of the room, just a few feet in front of me.  To my right is the open door into the playroom (later, the office) and to my left, the trash can and the corner of the kitchen.  In front of me and beyond the dining room table, there is the old boxy Frigidaire, the squat electric range, the closed door to the “back room”, and the cabinets, sink, the intense orange formica countertops, the paint on the cabinets so thick from multiple coats that I can see the bubbles from way over here.  But most of all, the wallpaper, the paisley-esque floral pattern that never seemed to repeat itself, the busiest walls in town,  all the swirling greens, yellows and oranges you could ever ask for.  I sit staring, agog, at a room from the dustbin of my mind, all the details intact, the sensory flash a blinding experience, like surfacing from beneath water which you did not know you were beneath. It seems that full minutes pass as I sit there–seemingly immobile–in silence except for the ticking hands on the Seth Thomas that’s above the trash can.  Then suddenly, I see him enter from the playroom.  He is quite young, perhaps eight years old.  He is a tiny little guy, and his bright blonde hair is almost blinding.  I do not take notice to what he is wearing, I am so focused on his face as he strides toward me: quite serious, bordering on dour, his skin so new and flawless, like aloe straight from the plant.  He walks toward the kitchen table with a purpose, without looking at me, then as he is directly in front of me, he turns to look at me.  The gravity of this moment is not lost on me.  He looks me in the eyes, the seriousness of him slowly morphing into steadfastness, then further into assurance, and finally, the corners of his lips turn up, and he is smiling.  Not grinning, and not smiling as though at a joke, but as if he was happy in some secure knowledge.  Then he opens his mouth to speak and his tiny voice comes forth. “It’s going to be OK,” he says.  I am unable to move or talk, but I know this statement makes me cry.  He smiles even bigger now and takes one step toward me.  “It’s going to be OK”, he repeats.  Now he steps even closer, and somehow climbs up onto my lap, even though I can’t actually see my lap.  He turns his head toward me and I can see he is now smiling the smile of the joyous, the thrilled, the exalted.  His little smile seems to go all the way up to the highest tuft of sun-touched blonde hair on his eight-year-old head.   He leans in close to me and through that gaping smile he whispers, “It’s going to be OK.”

Nowadays I share a lovely apartment with my partner, the best person I have ever known.  I have everything I could ever want, both material and ethereal.  I move through every day like it was a dream, even when they are hard days.  We listen to some good music, or read some good books, or lay and talk.  And some days, while she is in another room or out on an errand, I may be sitting on the couch when a boy runs down the hallway and jumps into my lap.  This boy is really here, in the here-and-now, and he’s glorious.  His blonde hair isn’t quite as shocking, but it is bright and fine and bounces on his head when he runs, and his skin is like aloe, straight from the leaf, and his eyes are that kind of blue that are only blue in pictures; when you look right at them it’s like you see right through them.  Many days he jumps on my lap on the couch and shows me some spot he has injured in his play; a brush burn on a knee, a scrape on a wrist.  The tears in his eyes are real, teetering there in the corners, wobbly, almost-falling down the cheeks.  “Dis gonna go down to the bone?” he will ask, or “Me am gonna die?”  I kiss his boo-boos as well as I can and gather him up into my arms as tight as he’ll allow, and I whisper to him, “No, honey, it’s going to be OK.”

Protected: The Will is Online

Posted in Uncategorized on July 13, 2017 by sethdellinger

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Let’s Talk About My Weight Fluctuation

Posted in real life with tags , , , , on July 8, 2017 by sethdellinger

I know the world isn’t a clamoring for a blog post about my struggle with weight fluctuation, but I’m clamoring to write one, so.  Let me give you a little of my weight/fitness history first.

When I was a very young man, in my teens and early twenties, I certainly did not struggle with my weight. I am a short man, but I don’t think it would be fair to say I was ever scrawny. Lithe, is how I liked to think of it. At any rate, I was a pretty small man. In high school I was on the wrestling team and I wrestled (poorly) in the 103 pound weight class, if you can believe that. Anyway, it wasn’t until the back side of my twenties that I started to plump up a little bit, nothing too serious, I just became a somewhat chunky guy. And when you are 5 foot 2, it doesn’t take many extra pounds to make you look chunky. I at that point started to go through phases where I would try to lose weight.  I would become obsessed with the idea of taking the weight off and doing it quickly. During this period I was still a smoker, so any hardcore exercising was fully out of the question, so I would try and do it through “calorie deprivation”, AKA starvation. Now, at this point I wasn’t getting very scientific about it, I wasn’t necessarily counting calories, I just did things like bought Slim-Fast, skipped meals, then would do a bunch of jumping jacks in my bedroom at night, assuming that any kind of exercise, when you are consuming extremely low calories, you are going to lose weight. It would work somewhat, I would watch the scale every day, I’d lose a couple pounds, but at that point in time I wasn’t interested or motivated enough to really keep going with it, and also my inability to really exercise in any extended capacity really limited me. So I would do it on again and off again, but never really commit.
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Then around the age of 30 I quit smoking, and I immediately bought a pair of running shoes and started running around my neighborhood, thinking I was going to make a huge change, and of course again I started severely limiting my calorie intake, and watching the scale. But, being the novice I was, I immediately overdid the running, inflicting stress fractures in my shins (although not diagnosed by a medical professional). My over zealousness and a lack of knowledge sidelined me shortly after I quit smoking, and then shortly after that is when I began my long solo journey.
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I moved to Erie, Pennsylvania, where I was 5 hours from all my friends and family, completely alone. It was a very exciting time for me actually, but one thing I decided to do, I made a conscious choice to go ahead and get overweight. I wasn’t going to run into anybody I knew anywhere. I wasn’t at that period interested in attracting a romantic partner, so I decided to just say to hell with it and eat whatever I wanted, however often I wanted. I also had a good amount of disposable income so it really was a tremendous smorgasbord for me.   After a year-and-a-half of living in Erie, I weighed 190 pounds, at 5 foot 2. This was pretty extreme. In many respects, it was fascinating and I kind of enjoyed it. I’d never been anywhere near that big before, and at first it became truly fascinating to see parts of myself changing, expanding, learning what it was like to be that big. But of course, that novelty wore off eventually. Things were very inconvenient, I couldn’t tie my shoes properly, going to the bathroom was a chore, and although I still tried to live a pretty active lifestyle, it started to be difficult for me to ride a bike, or take a leisurely stroll through the woods. So, it having been a few years since I quit smoking at that point, I decided to really go all in, and for the first time in my life, get a gym membership. And thus began the real weight ballooning. Now I was able to watch the scale, count my calories, and work out obsessively. It turns out that calorie deprivation coupled with frequent working out is actually an incredibly effective way to lose weight! Of course I’m not the first person to figure this out. But as any health professional will tell you, starvation diets are no way to lose weight and keep it off. Almost everyone who loses weight in this fashion puts it back on eventually. Because it is not a lifestyle, it’s a quick fix and psychologically, it wires us to bounce back. But at the time, that didn’t matter, I was losing weight super fast, sometimes as much as a pound a day. I became familiar with how many calories equal one pound of fat.  I did the math everyday, all the calories I ate, all the calories I burned.  And you might be surprised how, when one is living by themselves and can completely control what food is in their house, and how obsessive they are able to be, just how easy it is to approach that number in one day. In total, I lost 50 pounds in just a few months, going from 190 to 140. I also did a lot of weight training in that time, and was looking pretty astonishing. And even though I had gotten there through a starvation diet, I truly did enjoy working out and being fit, and had every intention–or so I thought–of continuing to live a fit and healthy lifestyle going forward. I had bought a lot of stuff, fitness swag. I loved going to the gym, looked forward to it and spent hours there as often as I could. Being fit had become a part of me, a part of my new identity and I loved it. However, just a few short months after arriving at this place in my life, I ended up making an enormous life change. After about 10 years of living completely by myself, and 15 years of working for the same company, I made a decision to move 7 hours away, to live with my mother and get a job with a new company. Now, granted, the living with my mother part was to be very temporary, until I could find my own place. However, mom lived in New Jersey, right outside of Philadelphia, and it was my goal to find my own place in Philadelphia, which was not the simplest thing to do, especially when I was also getting used to my new job. So I ended up living with Mom for about 10 months, and all these changes at once served to derail my newfound love for fitness. Now granted, I can’t really blame gaining my weight back on those changes. I could have continued to focus on the fitness, I do realize that. I tried very much at first. I transferred my gym membership to one in South Jersey, and tried to get there as often as I could, but I  ended up getting there just a handful of times. I was learning the geography of my South Jersey home, as well as trying to learn the layout of Philadelphia, and learning my new job. And although my mother is tremendously hospitable and living with her again at that stage of my life was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything, it was also incredibly shocking to my system, as a man in his mid-thirties, who had lived in a couple rather large apartments by himself for a long time, to now share his house with his mother. It was a lot to take in.  At any rate, after holding my fitness together for a month or two, I started to slide, eventually caving and gaining almost all my weight back. By the time I came to and realized that I was a pretty big man again, I had been living by myself in Philadelphia for over a year. I suddenly realized that I had gone all the way back to my biggest. I remembered fondly how much I loved fitness in Erie, how much I love how I looked, how much I loved clothes shopping and how much I enjoyed the feeling of being physically fit. Being that size felt like the authentic me, like I had finally tunneled to part of the real me, in the physical sense. Here I am not suggesting that our “authentic selves” are purely physical–surely I was an authentic version of me when I was my biggest.  But in that body I didn’t feel like me.  In my 140 pound body, I did.
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 And so I started the process again. It was easier in Philadelphia, because I did not have a car and rode my bike everywhere. Even with that being the case I had managed to get to 180 or 185 pounds. I once again got a gym membership in Philadelphia.  The gym was two miles from my house so I had to ride my bike 4 miles round-trip just to go to the gym. I started starving myself again, or what I thought of as calorie deprivation. The weight came off like gangbusters once again, I stepped down through the pounds in just a matter of months, arriving at that beautiful sweet spot of 140, although my ideal goal has always been 130, my reasonable goal is always 140. I got there and loved it again, but just like the first time, no sooner had I gotten there then I made some enormous life changes. As most of you probably know, it was shortly after this that I met my love Karla, and once again stopped living by myself, moving back to my homeland in central Pennsylvania, and this time not just moving in with one person, but with Boy and Dog as well. And then shortly after that move, I changed jobs yet again, and then even more notably, quickly transitioned to vegetarian, and then to vegan. And while the general perception of being vegetarian or vegan is that it is automatically healthier–and that is almost always true–if one tries really hard, one can gain quite a bit of weight eating these ways. And so it came to pass that even though I was the happiest I’ve ever been in my life, the sheer magnitude of changes ushered in yet another slow crawl to a heavy spot.
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Now, I’m not a trying to blame my weight bouncing on these changes entirely. It truly is a mystery to me whether or not and to what degree these life changes cause my weight gain, or whether I would bounce back even without such changes to start it. All I know is that it has happened that way. Karla has been incredibly kind and understanding, always making me feel handsome and beautiful no matter what, but supporting me and what I want to do.  And so it came to pass that a few months ago, I decided it was time to get back onto the fitness train, this time, fingers crossed, to stay on the train forever. You see, the thing is, both times I have lost all that weight before, I certainly recognized that I was not doing it in a healthy way. I knew that the calorie deprivation and that incredibly rapid weight loss was not healthy for me, and would not be easy for me to maintain. However, I simply found myself incapable of not obsessing over it once I began. Now, I don’t know if this is what would classify as an eating disorder or not. Perhaps it’s just a manifestation of something else within me, and I don’t know if something that only happens every couple years is an eating disorder. But I do know that it does feel mildly beyond my control. When I first began getting healthy and losing weight this time around, a few months ago, I was determined not to let it grip me this time. I began at first simply by deciding to eat better. I never stepped on the scale. I went to the gym occasionally, but on no set schedule. My idea at first was just to make the next right decision with food.  Every time I ate, I would eat a reasonable portion, or forgo condiments that might add calories or fat.  I would skip the snack at night.  I wouldn’t drink calories unless it was part of some healthy beverage.  And so on.  And so this is what I did for about a month.  I stepped on the scale finally: 178.  A better starting point than my previous times; I’ll never know what I really started at, the month before I started eating better.
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After I stepped on that scale the first time, I was able to keep things pretty healthy for a month or two. I would only check my weight every couple days. I started working out more, because I wanted to be healthier, I wanted my circulatory system and my respiratory system to really be awesome. I continued  just making the next right decision with food, and while the scale didn’t always show a loss when I stepped on it, the trend was generally downward and I was pleased. But somewhere along the line, about a month ago, it gripped me again. I started cutting back on calories in an extreme sense, I wasn’t able to go the the gym as I have been before, but I started to deprive the calories, I started to step on the scale multiple times a day, keeping track of when the last time I had a drink was, in case that was showing on the scale. Had I peed recently? What all was traveling through me? Almost at any point in the day, I could tell you how much I weighed. Of course the thing is, it’s working like gangbusters again. I expect to wake up tomorrow morning at 161 pounds, about to enter the 150s! The changes are finally starting to be noticeable, although I still hate my belly. Even at 140, I typically hate my belly.
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I’m writing this now, I think, because I’ve realized it’s gripped me again and I’m not going to let it happen this time.  I’m going to keep dieting, in a prudent way, and I’m going to keep working out and getting healthy.  And with my lovely partner’s help (there really is nobody better than Karla for, basically, anything) I will work through my scale-watching, calorie-obsessed issue. I will lose weight and keep it off and get fit and stay that way–because I have to and because I want to.  But once I start seeing the scale move and the numbers go down I want to be at the end NOW.  And I know how to do it.  But how many times do I have in me?  Frequent weight swings of this magnitude will wreck a human body.
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I suppose I am putting this out in the world as an additional counter-measure; if everyone knows about it, it adds an extra layer of accountability for me.  And also to add a voice to dispelling the myth that men don’t have body issues.  While our culture certainly creates a toxic environment for women and what they have to put up with as far as beauty standards is horrific and as a man I do not have nearly so much against me, I do struggle greatly with anxiety of how I look to others.  I hate my flabby paunch, my jiggly underchin, my wrinkly eyes.  I obsess over how I look–especially when I’m at my worst.  I’m not suggesting that male body issues need to be a major area of social discourse, but unfortunately there remain many women and men out in social media land–most of whom I consider quite enlightened otherwise–who frequently post memes and such of shirtless firefighters (or etc etc) with captions like “I’m gonna set my house on fire”.  Of course these shirtless men always have physiques that would be literally impossible for me to attain at this stage in my life, no matter what I did.  But there they are–intelligent, socially aware adults perpetuating an unattainable vision of masculine beauty.  Please don’t get me wrong–I’m certainly not blaming my weight fluctuations on memes.  I’m just putting it out there for thought: we’ve fought hard against idealizing ludicrous feminine beauty standards for years.  Please consider the men in your life before you do the same to them.  We are not immune to feelings of body shame.
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Please don’t think you need to worry about me, either.  I know I used the term “eating disorder” in here but I am in no danger.  I ate pretty well today and plan on it tomorrow, too. And I have a pretty good team in my corner.  I hope to update you soon on how I attained my goal weight, the healthy way.
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