Raging Ambivalence

So, once again, I am attempting some kind of weight loss. Surprise!

Actually it is kind of a surprise. I wasn’t sure I would ever go down this road again, considering the trail of failure that drags behind me back to the age of 14. There’s always temporary success, yes, but ultimately failure. That, plus being on the “self-acceptance” track for a few years now has kept me from wanting to pay attention to my weight.

But if I’m being honest with myself I AM UNCOMFORTABLE at this weight. I don’t have much stamina. I start huffing & puffing after very little activity, and that’s going to be a problem if I want to go to Italy in the fall. I need to be able to do a lot of walking around.

So. This topic came up at my last visit to the rheumatologist, and he gave me a referral to the “Center for Lifestyle Management” at Northwestern. That’s a lovely euphemism, isn’t it? Couldn’t we all use some “lifestyle management?” I called in October and couldn’t get an appointment until JANUARY. Which means they’re either doing bang-up business or only see one person a day. I’m not sure which.

I am now living on 1400 calories a day, WHICH DOES NOT FEEL LIKE MUCH. I’m also keeping track of everything I eat, which is one of the things I always hated about being on a weight loss program. The constant evaluation and categorization of everything I eat or think about eating. How many calories does this have? How many calories do I have left today? How much of this is one serving? FIFTEEN tortilla chips is a serving? AAUUUUGGHHHHH. I just want to eat what I want to eat when I want to eat it and not think about it. But that’s no doubt part of the reason I weigh what I do, so I just have to get over the idea that I can’t do that anymore. The torturous task of food tracking is a bit easier now, thanks to the fancy phone apps that have practically every food known to humankind already analyzed and imported and all you have to do is click to add it to your diary. I’ve been doing it for about a week and a half now.

I weighed myself after the first week, and I’d lost eight pounds. I felt both good and “so what?” about it. There was very little of that past elation that came with weight loss. Because let’s be honest, you can’t weigh what I weigh, cut yourself back to 1400 calories a day and not lose at least five pounds in a week. Yes, I still had to actually do it, but this is the easy part. I know this. I have done this enough times to know that the first few months are easy. I can lose at least 20 pounds by Memorial Day, probably. But after six months, eight months, the weight loss starts to taper, every pound is hard-won, and the urge to eat 1400 calories worth of ice cream in one sitting will get harder to ignore. I HAVE DONE THIS ALL BEFORE. I’m having difficulty seeing how things will be different this time. But I’m going to do the work for as long as I can, and see what happens. I’m trying to take a page from the rehab world and narrow my focus to “one day at a time.” I’m very good at sending myself to the future and examining all the ways my failure was inevitable. I need to spend less time doing that. Be Here Now, and all those bullshit clichés that are actually really important.

I’m hesitant to even publish this, because I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t want this to be the focal point of my life (that’s another thing I hate about doing this. It takes so much mental energy). And I don’t want to be a food martyr. “Oh, I can’t eat that!” “Oh, I wish I could have seconds!” “Oh, I miss eating pizza!” It’s such a tiresome topic.

So let’s not talk about it, okay? I just needed to get some of this out of my system.

Raging Ambivalence


I started writing this a few months ago when I learned of the death of my friend Chris Golding. It’s been sitting unfinished in my Drafts since then. I thought I should take a crack at finishing it.


It’s so strange to learn of someone dying, when it’s someone you know, and someone close to your own age. Even knowing he had a serious disease, when the news comes that he’s gone, it’s very unsettling. He fought the good fight, and sometimes people win that fight. You think, “Of course, he will be one of the ones who wins. He’s a good person. He’s tough. He has a supportive family. He’s handling it with as much grace as anyone can. He’ll get through it.”

But no. Not every good person with a good attitude gets through it.

Things had been okay for awhile (not great, but okay), but then I saw via Facebook that he was in the hospital again. I didn’t know the exact details, but I assumed it was a temporary setback, or something that was not unexpected and soon he would be back in the world doing his thing and life would go on.

But no. When the news came it was kind of a gut-punch. He was not a person I was particularly close to. We didn’t speak regularly. He was someone from my past, who I would have likely completely lost touch with without the world of social media. But through that lens I had the chance to know him a little bit better and then know that he was gone.

When I hear that someone has died, especially when it’s someone I knew, or felt close to, eventually I always end up envisioning them in that last moment — when the last breath comes, when the line goes flat and they are no more. For some reason that’s when it becomes real to me, when it hurts the most — when I see them in my mind’s eye, and they are here, and then they aren’t.

For myself, I’m less afraid of death than I used to be. I think I’m much more afraid of the dying process than of actually being dead. I’m afraid of the pain and suffering, and afraid of being a burden to whoever is around when it happens. Perhaps even more so, I’m afraid of no one being around when it happens. I think I’ve become less afraid of being dead because I don’t have much belief in an afterlife anymore — at least not in the literal Christian Heaven/Hell that was presented to me when I was a kid.

I remember seeing that Jack Chick comic, “This Was Your Life” around age ten, and being absolutely terrified. The idea of having to account for all my misdeeds was almost unbearable. What terrible things could I possibly have done at age ten to make this such an awful prospect? Literally NO things. The worst thing I had probably ever done at that point was punch my brother, or think some mean thoughts about the boys who teased me for being fat. But the idea that I could be sent to Hell was very real to me, and the most terrying thing was that it would never end. But did that fear of eternal damnation make me perfect? No, because I’m human and perfection is impossible.

As I get older I have a harder time believing in the idea of an afterlife that is something we can wrap our puny human minds around, if there is one at all. Obviously I’m not 100% certain because no one is, but the older I get and the more I think about it the less sense it makes. I don’t mock or ridicule anyone who believes in these things. It’s a tremendous comfort to believe that if a loved one has died, eventually you will see them again. (Presuming all kinds of afterlife technicalities that allow for such things.) It’s a wonderful idea, to think that death is not the end of a relationship. It makes the end less scary.

My preferred afterlife is being remembered as wonderfully as Chris is remembered by his friends and family. He was important to so many people and the world is missing something without him.


Character Development

I spent some time today scanning old issues of SemiBold, in hopes of making an online archive of them. I initially thought of just posting the text, but it’s really not the same without seeing it in the context of the zine format. I only have a few copies left of some issues and somehow I have NO copies of the first issue, so I had to rely on the always reliable Dan Kelly for scans of that one.

During my scanning I’ve been reading bits of them here and there and I find myself groaning at some of my clunkier sentences, or wondering why I said something the way I did, or realizing I have changed my mind about one thing or another. The cringing and mild regrets made me think twice about posting them online. “Do I want people reading this NOW?” It’s like re-baring my soul all over again.

But I think I will post them. The fact that I cringe at some of my bad writing probably means I’m a better writer now, and I also still love some of the things I wrote. I’m almost 20 years older than I was when I first started writing SemiBold, and if I hadn’t made any evolutions of character or personality in all that time I would be doing a poor job of living. And it took a lot of nerve for the 20-something version of me to write some of those things down and send them out into the world. I owe her some respect for the effort. It was not in my nature to let people see my fear and my insecurity. I assumed sharing it was just giving people an opportunity to take advantage of me. Imagine my surprise when not only did people NOT take advantage of me but I ended up getting a lot of positive responses, and I made some new friends, many of whom I still have today. 

I’ve shed a few skins in the last 18 years — I’ve set some things aside and picked up others. When I was getting my first tattoo, I remember wondering if I would regret it someday (I was 30 at the time so it wasn’t exactly a youthful impulse). But then I thought, “How much more could I possibly change? This is probably the way I will be, and think, for the rest of my life.” Maybe I haven’t changed much since I was 30, but I’m not exactly the same, either.

Who will I be in another 20 years?

Character Development

2013 Reading List – the Final Update

Currently reading:
Van Gogh: The Life by  Steven Naifeh & Gregory White Smith
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

The Battle for God  by Karen Armstrong
Is Everyone Hanging Out With Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division by Peter Hook
The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick
My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson by Alfred Habegger
Permanent Record by Leslie Stella
Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago by Eric Klinenberg
Attempting Normal by Marc Maron
Banquet at Delmonico’s: Great Minds, the Gilded Age, and the Triumph of Evolution in America by Barry Werth
The Murder of the Century: The Gilded Age Crime That Scandalized a City & Sparked the Tabloid Wars by Paul Collins
The Mind’s Eye by Oliver Sacks
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Visit Sunny Chernobyl:And Other Adventures in the World’s Most Polluted Places by Andrew Blackwell
How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder from World War II to Hip-Hop by Dave Tompkins
Joan of Arc by Mary Gordon
Hallucinations by Oliver Sacks
Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest by Wade Davis
Love All the People: The Essential Bill Hicks by Bill Hicks
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan
Every Love Story is a Ghost Story – A Life of David Foster Wallace by D.T. Max

Interesting — Permanent Record is the only work of fiction I read all year. That’s very unusual for me. Lots of brain stuff, lots of biography/memoir. Hmm!

2013 Reading List – the Final Update


So here it is, our annual planetary attempt at a do-over.

Every year, we all get together on the same day and say, “Okay let’s try this again, and hopefully we won’t screw it up this time.” But inevitably, we’ll be back here in 365 days, hitting the restart button again. We call Earth IT and they tell us, “Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?” And so we do, and then we’re all shiny-faced and optimistic, looking at our nice clean slates and then life gradually chips away at our hopes for being healthy, nice, beautifully pure humans with nothing but kindness and joy in our hearts. I guess that’s why we need the reboot every year. I wonder, if we didn’t do this, if we didn’t have an annual moment of starting over, if society would be even worse off than it is. Not that everyone participates in it. For some people it means nothing. In some cultures the “new year” takes place at a different time on the calendar. But is there any culture that doesn’t celebrate this at some point? Is it a human need to begin anew? The planet itself runs on a cyclical schedule of seasons and sunrises and sunsets. The beauty of being round and constantly rotating and orbiting around the sun is that we will always come back to the beginning and start over. Maybe there is no other way we could be.

The pessimist in me looks at it as foolhardy — the constant barrage of resolutions and promises that will be in ashes by springtime, doubting that real, significant change is almost impossible. But the optimist in me points out that despite all evidence to the contrary, people still try. They still believe it’s possible that this will be the year they finally change. And some people WILL change.

Will I change? I don’t know. The first thing I thought of when the clock struck 12 last night was not any big hope for 2014, but some big regrets I had in the year that just ended. Things I should have done but procrastinated my way into oblivion. I have a very bad habit of avoiding things I don’t  want to deal with, which then creates a bigger problem I avoid dealing with, and so forth.

But as I said in my previous post a couple days ago, I don’t like making formal resolutions, and I especially don’t like declaring them publicly. I don’t like the disappointment. And ultimately I think if you really want to change something about your life you should just do it when you need to do it and not wait for January 1st. But that’s big talk coming from me, the aforementioned Avoider of Big Problems.

I do have a strange notion about New Year’s Day. Well, maybe it’s not that strange, I don’t know. I don’t know where I got this idea, either. I must have read it somewhere, I suppose. The idea being that New Year’s Day is kind of a representative of your year to come — whatever you want to do this year, you should do on New Year’s Day. So I always try to have a nicely balanced day if I can. I like to do things that make me happy, and will make me pleasant person to be around. I don’t want to waste away the day on the internet, or sleeping (which would both be nice, admittedly). I like to do some exercise (I did some yoga this morning, which I haven’t done in a long time), some writing (like this), some reading, eat something delicious (and hopefully healthy), talk to friends, listen to some music, snuggle with the cats, take a hot bath, etc. It makes me feel like I’m getting a good start to the year, without any particular pressure to accomplish something major.

One goal I’m working toward is going to Italy this year. Probably in the fall if I’m lucky. If not, I may postpone it to spring 2015. I’m saving money, and working the system to get as many frequent flier miles as I can in hopes of wrangling a free plane ticket. I’m going to read from one of my Italy guidebooks today and do some daydreaming about it.

Whatever it is that YOU want from this year, I hope you get it. I hope you can make 2014 whatever you want it to be.