Body Made Flesh

My hands are my favorite feature.  Long and slender, they spread between me and the world.  They have grown callus, touching and touched my hardship and resistance.  They are my lifeline to this world. 

My eyes have seen only a fraction.  Once twisted and warped by chemicals beyond my control, they were set right and aligned to view the world correctly again.  They still blur at the edges, creating clouds on sunny days, but I’ve learned to ignore the clouds and appreciate the sunshine.

My muscles have grown strong, pulled and pushed over a few years of hard work and sweat.  They scream at me from time to time but yield to my desires and become shaped to my goals.  They are a work in progress, in a process that will last the rest of my life.  I’m a clay yet to be sculpted. 

My skin hangs from my bones, yearning to be set free.  I wish to part with my flesh, change my body to fit myself. 

My feet are long and tired.  They make me an octopus when I walk, clinging to surfaces for better traction.  They have been broken and reset, made to hold me up, tall and proud.  They are my fractured foundation.

I am my body, at times.  Some days, I’m freer than my body.  Some days, I’m trapped in a flesh unwilling to adapt to my will.  I struggle to see the good in a body, the worth of flesh, the physical being contained in a cage of its own making.  I do not wish to rid myself of this cage but make it better with time and effort.  I am stronger than these irons bars that hold me.  I’ll reshape this cage into a being of my own making.  A self-made man.  I’ll create myself anew and walk among the world a new man.


I wrote this prose poetry piece the other day and I’d thought I’d share it here. I have an evolving relationship with my own body. I’m working out more and trying to shed pounds I gained in lockdown. I’m excited for this new chapter in my life.

Update (May 2021)

I’m still figuring out what I want this personal blog to be.  I’ve been focusing more on fitness and family issues, so I haven’t been writing enough—or at all—for both this blog and my own projects.  I’m struggling to write out a novel I’ve outlined, but it has difficult to sit down and write with everything going on.

I’m recently came out as trans to my family and friends.  I’m not sure if I want to include that part of my life on this blog—I’m not an expert on the topic by any means.  That said, I have been questioning whether I should use my voice to help the trans community, especially trans youth. Please vote No on any anti-trans bills and donate to charities that help trans youth and trans folks of color. 

Here are a few:

www.thetrevorproject.org

https://www.theokraproject.com/

Looking to the future, I want to focus on various topics, including but not limited to:

Travel

Pop culture

Writing—academic, nonfiction, and fiction

Overall, I want this blog to be fun and creative for myself and my readers.  I’ve noticed a ton of traffic to my academic writing, so if you find those projects useful be sure to cite your sources.  I list my sources below the piece for people to go to the original whenever possible.  Check out my Twitter feed, although I rarely post.  It’s the easiest way to get hold of me.

Please stay tuned and be safe.

Odd Vampire Out

NOTE: This is a writing exercise I did that I found way too funny, so I decided to share it. Enjoy.

Prompt: Think of an alternative vampire that survives on something other than blood. Write a story or scene based on this character.

Gustav was in heaven.  He had always been shunned by other vampires for being a glutton.  Unlike his kin, he did not survive off blood.  His lifeblood was butter.  A cruel curse from a traveling band of witches.  Standing in the entrance to the Iowa State Fair, he felt elation.

Famed across the world for its butter displays, Gustav considered the Fair his Mecca.  He’d dreamed of his pilgrimage from Europe to the distant land of Iowa for years since he’d been turned.  He’d been cursed for so long, left to live off discarded diary waste in his homeland.  In Iowa, butter was scared.

Traveling by night, the journey had been long and tedious, but he had finally arrived.  Covered head to toe in dark fabrics, he fought to avoid the August sun.  He came at first light, but the Fair didn’t open until 9.  He couldn’t enter without an invitation, although he believed a ticket counted.

He walked to the building housing his scared butter.  It was sealed and refrigerated to keep the product cool and firm in the summer heat.  Behind panes of glass, he beheld his life’s dream.

A life-size cow made of butter.  A bust of Mona Lisa made of butter.  A tiny village made of butter.  Butter as far as the eye could see.

An urge rushed through him and he used all this vampire strength to bust the glass, sending shards flying.  He jumped into the room, scaring the guests around him.

Ravenously, he grabbed handfuls of butter and stuffed them into his mouth, his fangs erect in excitement.  He slaughtered the butter cow and crushed the butter village.  He murdered butter Mona Lisa.  He was a wild beast, tearing through every display he could get his buttery hands on.

A shot rang out and Gustav fell to the ground.  From the crowd emerged a dark figured cloaked in unusual garments.

“My revenge is complete!” shouted the figure as he staked a piece of wood covered in butter through Gustav’s heart.  “For my beloved Bessie!”

Gustav burst into flames, melting the remaining butter around his corpse.  A cascade of melted liquid made the floors an oily mess.

Wilhelm von Glick III had finally slain the beast that had killed his beloved cow so many years ago.  His life’s mission complete, he collapsed on the spot and died from shear exhaustion.

The Workspace Fallacy

During this pandemic (and even before), I’ve been severely struggling to create anything new.  Although this struggle cannot be pinned to only one factor, it doesn’t help that I have a fixation with creating the perfect workspace to produce my writing.  I have detailed opinions about lighting, chair height, and desks—I have so many nitpicks about the perfect desk.

After some deep thinking, I realized that my quest for the ultimate workspace is only causing me to put off writing.  It doesn’t help that I’m still, after 2 years, recovering from burnout after grad school.  But that aside, my focus is in the wrong place.

I confess, I hated my desk from grad school that sat in my home office.  It was worn and the edge was sharp where the two composite pieces met, tearing into my wrists as I typed.  I recently ordered a custom desk from a local woodworker after waiting months and not writing at my old desk or laying out my work at the wide dining table in my open concept dining/kitchen/living area.  My new desk is here, and I still find myself resisting sitting down in my office.  Why?  My lighting is great.  My new desk is exactly what I wanted, down to every detail.  My chair is at the right height.  Why did I resist the siren song of my favorite pen and a fresh sheet of yellow legal notepad paper?

Simply put, I was aiming for a goal that I would never achieve.  My perfectionism was blocking me from seeing my priorities clearly.  There is no perfect place or workspace to write if you can’t bring yourself to just sit down and do the work.

Today, I sat down at my new desk and I made myself focus on the act of writing.  I pulled out my old college tricks—Pomodoro timer, noise-cancelling headphones, background music—and I wrote.  In fact, I wrote this post.

A persistent myth about writing is the false idea of “waiting for my Muse.”  Instead of having a Muse, I aim for achieving the Flow State where time is meaningless, and ideas seem to flow freely.  It is very difficult for me to slip into the Flow State, especially after burning out.  Although I hate to admit it, I have better focus if I know I have a looming deadline.  The time crunch forces me to get down to work.  This fact helped all throughout college and grad school.  With a lack of deadlines, I don’t do my work.  I put it off.  Then, the pandemic hit and my mental health tanked, so I didn’t find solace in the idea of creating.  I felt only urges to move, to work with my hands, but not to create.  TO be fair to myself, this is a weird time for everyone; the normal rules do not apply.

In my restlessness, I sought to craft the exact workspace that would bring me quickly into the Flow State.  It was something physical and tangible for me to focus on.  I kept talking about writing, but I didn’t.  I set up an accountability system with a friend who is also a writer, and I still didn’t write.  I promised myself “tomorrow” when I deleted the day’s set hour for writing from my Google calendar. But today I somehow felt different.  I didn’t want to write, exactly, but I knew I needed to write.  Much like a tough workout, I always feel better after a good writing session.  I just have to set myself up—drink, headphones, lighting, etc.—and do the work.  If sweat is a sign of a good workout, a calm satisfaction is the sign of a good writing session.

No environment will ever be perfect.  Writers will always come up with some fault.  In college, I put off a task until the start of the hour.  If my clock read 10:05 am, I would tell myself I had 55 minutes to mess around before I definitely had to start the task at 11am on the dot.  Writing is a struggle against silence, and if we do not write, we are silencing ourselves.

2014/2019/2024

2014

2014

Me in 2014 at Nigara Falls

I was directionless.  I’d graduated college last December but remained in the same small town.  On a manic whim, I wanted to buy a building on Main Street and start a bookstore.  Luckily, the bank said no.  I was generally depressed, especially with the long winter still ahead of me.  In October, my Mom and I had taken a road trip to the East Coast to see an area of the US we’d never seen.  We’d had fun in Boston, Niagara Falls, and Maine.  Vermont was beautiful.

On another whim, with no jobs open to me in my little town, I applied to the graduate program at my old university.  I don’t think I’d get an acceptance letter until the next month.

Most of my day was spent in a depressed stupor.  I napped most days.  I would watch television, Netflix, and read.  I was very inactive, and I survived on a diet of pasta.  I loved to make a pot of goulash and save the rest for lunches and dinners afterward.  I wasn’t interested in cooking.  I ordered takeout from the local Chinese restaurant or terrible Italian place.  Typically, I made my own breakfast: eggs, turkey bacon, and toast.  I drank too much Coke with vanilla or straight Coke.  This habit would become much worse when I’d have to power through hours of homework in grad school.

I didn’t exercise or even leave the house if I could help it.  Most days were spent at home with my two dogs, Lucy and Desi.

I weighed around 260-270 pounds after gaining over 50 pounds two years before.  I’d been put on a new medication, which made me ravenously hungry.  I didn’t realize that I was eating way too much, often filling myself with very unhealthy food.  The weight gain made my depression worse, as I felt bad mentally and physically.  I was never athletic but during my undergraduate years, I’d been active and somewhat healthy.  I ate better then and didn’t overindulge.  I was comfortable with my body size in 2012; I weighed a bit too much, but I wasn’t obese.

Two years had changed my body to a sluggish, inactive mess.  It would remain that way until 2019.

 

2019

2019

Me in 2019 (November) at Galaxy Con Minn

I’ve been working hard since February to change my body, when I walked into a gym and signed up with a trainer.  I’d moved to the area at the beginning of the month to be closer to my parents and extended family.  It took me nearly a month to follow up on my desire to change.

When I joined my local gym, I was 293 pounds and deeply unhappy.  Although I’d been working with a student-trainer from 2017-2018, I’d stopped for the winter and gained 15+ pounds.  The thought of being 300 pounds made me upset and extremely depressed.  I knew gaining weight back in 2012 hadn’t really been my fault but now I’d had to live with it.  I’d been living with it for 7 years.  I knew I needed a dramatic change.  My move was an opportunity to create a new start.

Ten months later, I’ve lost 50 pounds after a great deal of work and some setbacks.  Since February, I’ve been going to the gym three times a week, with a few exceptions like travel.  I’ve scaled back my pasta habit considerably.  Instead, I enjoy cooking meals at home or eating a Chipotle chicken bowl.  I now monitor my diet, logging every meal and snack.  I don’t drink Coke anymore.  Occasionally, I’ll have one can of Zevia cola mixed with water to take away it’s sweetness.  Otherwise, I drink water or sugar-free Powerade.  My diet is limited to 1700 calories per day.  I don’t eat candy or inhale pasta like I once did.  I walk an average of 7000 steps per days.  I can lift 140 pounds.  When I first started, I couldn’t squat without getting stuck in an awkward position.  Now I can do back squats with weight.  I’m physically the strongest I’ve probably ever been.

My mental health has been stable for months with only a few mild bouts of depression.  My lows are small and brief.  My highs are limited and manageable.  In my adult life, I’ve never been this mentally healthy.  After a workout, I feel an incredible boost both mentally and physically that I’ve never known before.  A natural high.  I’m the most active I’ve been since I was a preteen.  I never played sports in high school.  In middle school, I played softball.  Before middle school, I ranked up to red belt (just below black belt).  I deeply enjoyed marital arts, but I stopped when I couldn’t level up to senior red belt.  As a child, I was wild and playful, staying outside from morning until dinner.  I spent most days roaming our family farm.  I watched Saturday morning cartoons and Aladdin and Hook (both on repeat) after I’d spent the day outside.  Otherwise, I didn’t spend much time in front of a screen.

 

 

2024

I see myself happily active and weighing between 170-180 pounds, a healthy place from my frame.  I cook at home and actually enjoy doing it.  I go to the gym 4-5 days a week, in the mornings.  I work on writing afterwards, when I’m mentally alert.

I like to jog around my neighborhood or on local trails.  Maybe I’ve taken up hiking.

I can do back squats well and deadlift 200 pounds.

I continue to be mentally stable, but I check in with my therapist monthly.  I’m comfortable in my body.  I own nice gym clothes that I’ve invested in.  My wardrobe of clothes fit well.

I’m strong physically and mentally.  I let myself enjoy cheat meals without feeling guilty.  I don’t overindulge.  I like protein powder.  Maybe I can make smoothies at home.

I generally feel calm and content, at peace.

I don’t gain weight, especially during the winter.  I like looking in the mirror.

I’ve become what I always pictured when I imagined myself as an adult.

 

There’s No Such Thing as Free Wifi

I have a strange problem.  I feel very guilty when I sit in a coffee shop, using their high speed Wifi, without buying anything.  Growing up, I was always taught to buy something—water, a candy bar—from a gas station after using their bathroom.  This polite gesture now nags at me as I write these words, sitting in a local coffee shop, writing and drinking water.  But the problem becomes more complex when I add that I am on a diet and I’ve already had lunch.  I would love to buy a sweet treat or a smoothie, but I don’t want the calories.  I’d buy coffee, but I don’t drink it.  Or tea.  A year ago, I would have bought a glass of fountain Coke, but I’ve cut it out of my diet.

Much like a gas station bathroom, I am expected to buy something in exchange for sitting and writing in their establishment.  It’s an unspoken pressure I feel every time, causing me to write at the local public library instead.  But the library often has screaming kids that even my Sennheiser noise-cancelling headphones can’t block out.  There is a din at the coffee shop, but it becomes a low white noise with my headphones on.

While I love supporting my local library, I prefer the environment of the coffee shop.  Yet I can’t shake this nagging feeling.  To be clear, if it was a Starbucks, I would not feel guilty.  I have no moral problem ripping off a giant corporate company.  But this shop is local and only one of two locations.  It has a hipster aesthetic and good lighting.  I can spread out at a table or sit in a leather chair by the fireplace.  The bathrooms are clean.  What’s not to love?

So that’s why I feel so guilty.  I feel like I’m stealing from the owner.  I’d be happy to tip the coffee shop a few dollars for a few hours of peace, but I don’t want to waste my calories on a food item I don’t want.  This feels like the most #FirstWorldProblem situation I have ever been in, but it begs the question: Is there such a thing as free Wifi?

Update (May 2019)

Hello all!

The plan from here on out is to write more.

In order to do this, I’m setting up a writing schedule to resurrect my writing habit.  I’m be blogging more, with more content in the next couple of months.  My plan is to focus first on simple essays and then move onto revisiting my MA thesis around July.  I’m publishing this update to hold myself accountable to the vast void of the internet.

Look out for more content and possibly some stories and pictures from my recent travels to Europe!