Soft and Hard

IMG_6427

To be straight with it, I’m not doing enough.  I’m not accomplishing enough, I’m not working enough, I simply not productive enough. I’m spending too much time thinking about the lack of time rather than using that time to make up the difference. Like blood flow to a muscle, we only grow stronger in what we practice and do, so as this fall peaks onto the horizon I will determine what exactly is needed, and where exactly I have been placing my time.

It’s like triage, which part of myself is in the most need of help. Which part of me is most likely to survive and thrive in this big wide world of ours.  I’m sitting here in this chair waiting for the answer to come.  My thoughts drift elsewhere, wanting some reprieve from this inglorious situation I find myself.

What do I cut first? Where is the fat in my life that takes up so much energy? Where are these thoughts that leed me astray and placate my desires with comfort instead of determination? How to I reduce without losing who I am, or maybe it’s who I am that’s the problem.

I feel it in my blood, flowing back and forth within me like conflicting bodies fighting over a contested birthright. My blood boils telling me that this fight is raging within me, between two parts of myself which for all intents and purposes are me.  Frustration mounts as my desires go unfulfilled, who should I back in this fight, who should win, is this the moment I decide my destiny?

Soft and Hard, that’s what it feels like to me, these two opposing ideologies that have served me in life now must battle for me to carry forward. Soft, the relaxed emotional person from my youth.  The softness reduced the blow of a childhood that was known to throw a punch or two.  Introspective, but understanding, it is the part of me clings to comfort when times are bad but endures as long as it’s needed. The hard, an emerging self built from frustrations of the past from not getting as far as I needed.  It’s the part that pursues, acts, and pushes forward regardless of what other people thing.  It feeds on frustration, anguish, and an insatiable need to do more.

We are what we feed into, so we have control what grows within us. So in choosing, its easy to say I need to put away that part of myself, this side part of me full of missed opportunities from lack of action that bog it down because soft is smooth and comforting. I can’t be that way anymore, not now when the wake of my future beckons me to come. I have to act, grasp at the opportunity to move and to exist in this place I’ve wanted to. So hard, a place I can build a foundation upon must will sustain me, until I need that soft part of me once again.

Beyond The Sort

IMGP5566

A tall building on a warm evening. A slight breeze blowing in the northwestern direction picking up the heat emanating off the hot concrete from the earlier that sun-scarred day. It’s warm enough for sweat beads to form on the body but cool enough not to be bothersome.  The last lights of the sun have already dissipated leaving only the artificial lamps of the living to illuminate the blackened streets below. There on top of that building we stand alone on the precipice, waiting for the answer, will we float or sink. It is as if we are to walk along the edge and be judged. Judged by a force that does not know context or form will decide. Where then does our destiny lie, and will we ever know unless we open ourselves to falling. Will it decide right or left, one will lead to death and the other release.  There we walk, teetering on that edge, hoping it’s not already too late.

Almost every student looking to attend graduate school have to take a test. Its named  Graduate Record Examination or called more commonly as the GRE. This test is daunting to most because of its deceptively simple questions require students to brush up on skills and abilities that ultimately have nothing to do with the subject matter they are attempting to study. Of course, there are exceptions to this but ultimately this exam that is the great standardizer among students and although it may not get you into a program, it can certainly keep you out.  I bring up this exam, not for the exam,  I could devote pages to how much this test has cheated young scholars that I know out of opportunities, no today I want to highlight of because of the way this exam is scored.

You can refer to this test as a living test, it’s really amazing. You see, as you take the test, the difficulty of the test will adjust to you, you get one wrong, questions get easier, you get one right, the test gets harder.  What it’s doing is gauging your score by homing in on exactly where your proficiency level is.  The only problem with this is that the first couple questions ultimately become the most important ones.  These are the great sorting questions, get the first couple wrong and it is impossible to get a high score on the GRE.  First sort, top half or bottom, then exactly where in those halves you lie. The rest of the questions are there to accurately gauge your specific score and percentile.  This is done so that Math majors and English majors can take the same test and still get an accurate measurement of their ability when compared to everyone else in between.

Now while you take the test, you can bring your score up if those first couple questions just happened to be your weakness, but for some, the test is decided after a much shorter time. You might answer all the questions, but your score was determined only after the first few, your ability to fly cut short by the first few mistakes.  Of course exactly how your test is scored and exactly how long it took to score it is a company secret, you’ll never know how long it took for people to make those judgments. If you do bad, you have to start all over, pay out some more money and hope that next time will go better.

It’s really unfortunate not just because the test is terrible but a lot of the time this system mirrors the reality.  We are sorted in such a way where the first few mistakes ultimately set us back, mistakes that may have nothing to do with the path you are trying to follow control you. If you get the first couple answers wrong you get sorted, and sorted, and sorted until having to start over becomes the only option but at that point, you’ve put all your time and money to get there.  What does it take to bridge that gap, how do you become the one that rises to the top, the cream instead of the water? Do these barriers matter because at some point when we get mixed together you can’t really break cream from coffee.

I don’t argue that it’s a way to give those who show more potential more opportunity and the system works for some but it is also seeded in the belief that people don’t change and with that belief, great barriers arise to separate those cans from cannots.  This is not everywhere, there are great institutions whose message to the world is let us help you make a good life for yourself.  It is then I who has this problem, this desire of prestige reserved for the few who are sorted.  This inequality in my heart that calls to say that I am not worth the dirt on the ground if I can’t fly in the sky.  What are we then to this, the world tells us where the “important” people are and live. To the hill that rises live those who stand above us all who live below telling us only the few deserve the right to live there.

We stand on the precipice readying ourselves to be sorted by the force that knows not who were are or what we can do by a system built by those of who have just like us been sorted. We crawl upon each other hoping that we get high enough to reach and yet we crush all those below holding all the weight. We destroy and rid ourselves of anything weighing us down in hope fly but remove everything about ourselves that makes flying worthwhile. We are not then defined by this, we are defined by the actions and relations to our fellow man and I’d be damned if I will let this system built by the collective action of those who sort us to keep me changing the world.

Wait Weight? Don’t Tell Me!

IMG_5526

A friend’s post online sparked a thought, one about size, weight, and we feel about ourselves.

One of the things I am happy to see through social media is all the positive life progress people post online to keep themselves accountable. People are making their lives better and tracking every moment of it. These progressive pictures that propagate may be pesky to some people, but it always reminds me of being able to overcome adversity and the ability for us to turn our lives around, not through ease but through hard work and perseverance.

I used to count calories to see low I could go. Food was the enemy, and I was just a warrior in my battle against it.

I had always been heavy for my height, thankfully always getting taller to accommodate for all the extra calories.  By the time I entered high school I was already unhappy with myself, which was one part depression and two parts the unfortunate side effect from it.  I ate to make myself feel okay, thinking I needed that extra sandwich at lunch.  I was a new place, with new people, after an old place with old people, something needed to change.

I was in my second year, learning to love the hobby of running that the results gave me something more than I could imagine, confidence.  I was starting to feel comfortable in my own skin.  The problem was I didn’t really know what healthy was, I mean sure my cousins worked out but I was never really privy to what exactly they were doing.  So I stuck to my guns, decided to do all I could to reduce my weight.  I was adhering to a guideline set out for me by the BMI index and dropping weight as much as I could.

I think few things really affected me during this period. First is that I got down to the weight that I wanted to, finally for the first time in my recorded life I hit the standard weight category. Second, my sister constantly referred to me as manorexic because of this weight loss. Third, I felt like I was finally able to have control over my own body. Lastly, the way I was eating caused me to have dizzy spells in the middle of the day where my vision would act like I was in the ocean and start wiggling about. I wanted to keep going because it felt so good to lose but my body resisted and stopped.

That being said, the next year I gained some of the weight back (partially because I was happily in my first relationship) and I have been yoyo-ing ever since. In all the subsequent years after that, I have never had a normal BMI number. Now it’s not unobtainable for a long stretch, but the question is, what is it that I want.

Years after another set of up and down I decided that my fitness goal instead of a number I am shooting for a fitness level.  I want to be able to get up and go if my friends ask me to go on a spontaneous hike. I devoted myself not to look at the scale, as it is deceiving, never letting me get away from how others think my body should look and feel.

Now my goals have grown from there, and I feel like I am the most fit I have ever been in my life, not skinny in the conventional sense but have a lot more muscle than before.  I am happy because I can eat the occasional unhealthy meal knowing I mostly eat healthy things and keep active incredibly regularly.

I stepped on the scale recently, not by choice but I wasn’t worried about what it said.  I am 6’1″, 222 pounds, conventionally this weight would mean I was on the verge of obesity but I know that’s not true.  This is a weight of effort and work, muscle.  We’re not all the same, and there are better ways to check how well you’re doing but it is always possible to become healthy, our bodies want us to be.  In the end as long as your making progress, then that’s all that matters, you are lapping everyone on the couch and that’s something to be proud of.

I will occasionally get worried about the number of calories I eat or feel like I need to step up my game at the gym. The mirror truthfully never is anything other than a battle between me and my scarred self-image. Whats most important is that I’m healthy, so if you ever wanted to have me step on a scale I might reply “Wait weight? Don’t tell me!”

Untitled.

A writes got to write.

But these worse, they don’t come easy.
Like a separation of skin from spirit, my hesitation comes from within.

There is a pain I wish to feel, sorrow in my heart that would make me feel okay
Like all of which I have just gone through is not just me but something more.

How can you argue with yourself
When your body and mind fail, you and you are sitting at the keys wishing words to pour out, but none come.
I scared them away with this intensity, and I don’t know how to get them back.

I have to be here, to suffer through the ambient silence and allow myself to be consumed by its misery. Quietly be eaten away but the hands of time as the push me towards the end of days.

I am not great, nor am I good.  This separation of what others see and what I do confuses me.  How could they see something that I can’t, why won’t the way I see? I would be much easier for me.

I need to write because I am a writer. Without writing I feel this pain weigh heavy on my heart. So I will put words to a page to save myself from the nothing within.

The Eternal Calm

IMG_8973

Like the sitting shores of a forgotten beach lays waveless water calm and deep.   Its sands untouched, unmoved, unmanned stacks so high like a reaching hand. From atop the sandy hill, you can see the waters still. And with those waters without a wake, reflects the world we hope to make.  Sky is ground and ground is sky, maybe it’s how we learn to fly. Because out on the horizon where these two skies meet, lies the eternal calm of a waveless beach.

The storm has passed for now, and my body is telling me that I need to rest.  It’s in these time, right after the rain ceases to fall, that calm rolls over and we are allowed to sit and ponder before life resumes again. I have faced these fears of mine, fears of inadequacy and being an impostor.  My stress levels have dropped, and my body relaxes. Many of these things have subsided for the moment, though to be honest I probably am just in the eye of the hurricane, waiting for the water wall to hit again.

I feel this weird, eerie calm wash over me. My body lightens and heavies, recovering from the burden I have been putting it through. I am a bit flat affect, much quieter and introverted. This part of me comes out to restore and refresh. To remind me that I am human and though life will move on, that things will change and the only way to get through them is to take care of myself.

So that’s what I am doing this week, not thinking much, but thinking regularly. Not doing much but moving forward.  Not saying much but speaking volumes. Soon the world will become boisterous again with the tide of fall so I will enjoy the calm while I can. Today is for rest so tomorrow I can be strong again.