I used to never look at my checking account. I spent money like I assumed it would always be there. I bought stuff I didn’t need. Sometimes I bought stuff I didn’t even want because buying things made me feel better. And buying food always made me feel best.
I avoid stuff. I’m good at it. I like to ignore subjects that make me feel uncomfortable. I always reason with myself that I’ll deal with it when I’m emotionally ready. But I’m never emotionally ready. I bury it deeper inside until it resolves itself or until it becomes unavoidable and I actually have to face it.
My pants get tighter and I tell myself I’ll start dieting the next day. My funds dry up and I say I’ll finally publish my book and hope to make a good bit of money from it. But at the end of the day, I go to the grocery store and stock up on candy. I eat it. And then it starts over the next day and the next week and the next month and the next year.
One of the things I’ve been ignoring the most is my student loans. I’ve been clueless about them ever since I first applied for them. My parents never dealt with student loans before and didn’t know how to help me with them so I just went for a company my college recommended.
And then when they came due, the minimum monthly payments were too high so I deferred them and then used forbearance. I couldn’t find a stable job and the money just wasn’t there. I eventually settled into my retail job and was fortunate enough to be promoted to a supervisor, which gave me a decent pay raise. About that time, my deferment and forbearance was exhausted and I had to start paying them back.
I set up automatic payments from my checking account so I wouldn’t have to look at it or deal with it or think about it. I didn’t even know where to go to check on my balance.
My mom has always dealt with the family finances. For example, my dad gives my mom his paycheck and she pools their money together and distributes it to the appropriate channels. Maybe I’ve inadvertently started to think of my mom as a bank, collecting and lending money as she saw fit and never bothered to develop my own financial independence.
Well, better late than never.
Last month, I really had a talk with myself about how much money I spend on junk. I spent money ’cause I was in pain and it was a self-medicating measure. And that’s why I can’t get mad at myself over the wasted money over the years. I didn’t mean to be wasteful. I just meant to be okay. What’s done is done and I can’t get upset over spilled savings. No matter where I was, here I am now.
I downloaded a few financial apps to my phone and researched my student loans. It was a bit disheartening to see exactly how much I owe back and how little of my monthly payments are actually going to the principal but at least I know now and from this point onward, I have a better idea of where my money’s going.
With this new job, I’m making a bit more money and I’m hoping it gets better soon enough so I won’t have to quit and lose that pay increase. In fact, at this point I should keep the job no matter how much I hate it because this is what being an adult means. I got myself in this financial mess and I have to get out of it, even if it means several years of scraping by and being poor and skipping cheeseburgers so I can use that saved money to chip chip chip away at those loans.
No, no, wait. Focus.
It’s really a win/win. I’m saving money and calories. And I’m pretty proud of myself because I haven’t spent any more money than I’ve absolutely needed to this year. Sure, we’re only 18 days into the new year but I’ve really concentrated on doing better. It’s one step at a time, one day at a time. And I feel good about it so far. I hope I can keep it up!
I always feel I do better when I’m making goals and working toward them. When I wake up with no direction, I usually get nothing accomplished and feel terrible at the end of the day. It’s difficult to make goals sometimes because I am an all-or-nothing type of person. Moderation is a hard concept for me to grasp because if I’m going to do something, especially something I don’t want to do, I want to see fast results. Otherwise, it’s easy to give up.
There are some days when I feel I have to starve myself, work out until I’m dizzy, write ten chapters and read an entire book in a day for me to feel like I actually did something productive. And that’s not healthy because trying to meet such high standards on a daily basis only sets myself up to crash and burn. And I always do. And that makes it harder to get back on track.
But there are other days when it’s like a switch has been flipped and I can understand and utilize the idea of doing and eating and experiencing things in small portions. I can have a slice of cake and not feel guilty. I can do moderate exercise for half an hour and feel like I burned some fat. I can write a chapter in the book I’m writing or read a chapter in a book I’m reading and I feel like I accomplished something. It’s during those times that I do my best and feel my best.
For a time last year, I woke up and made daily goals, usually involving exercising, reading and writing. I’d write during my lunch break at work, exercise when I got off work, then read before bed. Sometimes I wrote a lot and read a little or exercised a little and read a whole lot and didn’t write very much and there were days when I didn’t get around to doing one thing on my list because I got too busy or felt lethargic. That was okay because the majority of the time I accomplished most, if not all, the things I planned to do. When I had a goal to strive for, I had direction. When I had direction, I actually got stuff done. And that felt good.
This is the time to get back into that mode, to make goals and strive toward completing them, to get stuff done. If I fall short on a few things, that’s okay because I can always make it up the next day. It’s a tired expression but every day really is an opportunity to do better. I just have to remember that and not beat myself up if I can’t get it all done in one day.
It’s a one-step program, taking things one day at a time, one goal at a time, one accomplishment at a time. It’s all about patience and persistence. It’s about always reminding yourself of the good your doing, how the small things add up to big changes. And that takes a lot of energy and when you don’t have much to begin with, it can feel overwhelming. But it’s worth it. I just have to keep that in mind.
I’ve done all this before. Not once but twice. And I can do it again.
I was around 19 when I lost 40lbs for the first time. All my old shirts swallowed me up and I needed to get something that would fit my smaller frame.
Even though I looked better than I had in over 5 years, I still felt the pangs of insecurity tap at my spine when I saw all the pretty tanned people walking by with their paper shopping bags in one hand and their partner’s hand in the other. I was still big. And it was at that moment I realized the weight had gone away but the worry hadn’t. I still felt gross, ugly, fat.
And now, nearly 10 years later, having lost and gained those same 40lbs, I know the worry is still there and will never go away. Even at my thinnest, thinner than I was at 19, I hated the way I looked.
It’s hard to look at yourself in the mirror and know between the ages of 11-13, you ruined your body for good. To be so young and so damaging and so unaware is absolutely frightening. From the first stretch mark, you have damaged yourself beyond repair. When the skin doesn’t bounce back the way it used to, when you do hundreds of crunches and the back fat just won’t go away, you know you are ruined.
But at the time I just needed to dress myself.
“Gluttony is an emotional escape, a sign something is eating us.”
-Peter De Vries
“Well, I hate myself. I already have a pint of ice cream, a pizza, and mini eclairs. I don’t need these cookies. I’ll have to put something back. Pizza. I’ll put that back. I have pizza at home. But no, that’s why I came here. I want this kind of pizza, not the kind I have at home.
“I’ll just put back these eclairs. I can do without them. Yes, I feel good about this. Actually, no, these eclairs remind me of the time when I was in college and went to Publix and bought eclairs and ate them all in my car to soothe the pain of being a gigantic loser. Those were good memories and I think I want to re-capture them.
“And I really want this ice cream. And the cookies. I haven’t had the cookies in a long time.
“I’ll make chili dogs when I get home. I don’t need this pizza. But if I bought the pizza, I could have that the day after. That way I could satisfy my cravings for chili dogs and pizza. Yeah, I have to keep the pizza. But I have one at home. But this one has a cheese stuffed crust. I’m definitely keeping the pizza. Nah, the one at home is just as good.
“Okay, pizza is gone. Too many sweets here. Okay, ice cream gone. Just eclairs and cookies. That’s not too bad.
“Okay, the ice cream is back. I know I can do without it but it will literally be on my mind, making me crazy, until I eat it so it’s better to go ahead and get it so I won’t drive myself nuts. But that means I’ll have to, have to, put back the cookies. I’ve got to compromise. I don’t want to spend too much money. Or calories. But my diet is already shot. What’s another weekend binge?
“Damn it. Okay, keeping the eclairs for sure. It’s just…I’m so annoyed right now and these frozen foods, these processed pizzas, is what soothes me. I know I’m hurting myself. This is not normal, healthy behavior. But I’m sad and so I just don’t care.
“Screw it, I’m gonna get the pizza too.”
This is an average conversation I have with myself when I go to the grocery store, except I use a lot more foul language and stand around being indecisive for a longer period of time. People passing by probably think I’m lost. And in a way, I am. Continue reading
Valentine’s Day hit me like Chris Brown in a Bronco. I’m not talking about just being alone (although that did have a lot to do with it). I’m talking about the enormous amount of crap I ate.
I won an entire plastic container full of Hershey Kisses from work and then the store gave everyone a box of chocolates and my mom bought two boxes of chocolate for me. After consuming that much sugar and chocolate and lard and fat and lard and sugar and chocolate and fat and lard and more lard and the occasional coconut cluster that slipped past my security measures (yuck), I felt like total garbage.
It’s kind of amazing how you don’t realize how bad you stopped feeling until you start feeling bad again.
I always thought I was impervious to sugar, caffeine, Aspartame, vitamins and minerals,
love, legally obtained prescription drugs, etc., because I can have that stuff and it doesn’t make me more energetic or foggy or good or bad. I’ve always walked around generally feeling like crap. So, when I started exercising and eating less greasy, fast food-type items, I didn’t feel more energetic or “alive” or better physically or even mentally.
All it took was a near month-long binge of boxed chocolates to make me realize I didn’t feel as bad as I believed. And you might say a month-long binge of chocolates will make anyone feel that way, no matter what condition they started in. Even the most lethargic sloth would come away from three boxes of cocoa-coated caramels feeling worse. But that chocolate wasted feeling was how I used to feel all the time before I started dieting and exercising.
I felt bad that I indulged so heavily. I write these entries about doing well. I write about moderation and it’s okay to cheat every once in a while and you just get up and do better the next time around. And then I binge. And it happens to everyone but I still feel like I should be a better example. I’ve battled food and my weight and my addiction to food for years and you’d think I’d develop some sort of resistance to the constant cravings. But, no. In a lot of ways, I’m no better now than when I was seventeen and bingeing on Doritos and Diet Coke.
I also feel like I’m not as in touch with my body as I should be. I don’t know what’s going on inside. I can’t detect the changes in my mood or my middle. There’s a giant disconnection there and I don’t know how to harmonize my senses and awareness.
If anything, I guess this overindulgence was a good lesson. There might be something to this diet and exercise after all, folks! Maybe it does make a difference, even if the differences are subtle and fluid and not easily recognized by those who aren’t in touch with themselves.
I buzzed my beard off the other night because I was tired of the rough texture. I went to work the next day and was met with audible gasps. Not good audible gasps, either. More like shock and terror.
“What did you do to your face?”
“Where’s the beard?”
“You…you shaved it?”
“Grow it back!”
People acted like I was missing an eye or a nose instead of facial hair. I know they didn’t mean to make me feel bad but they did. I didn’t realize I was some gargoyle and the only thing that kept people from bursting into tears at the site of me was my beard. It was a mask, a filter, a softening lens that cranked down my deformed face.
Or maybe it was just the shock of seeing my face look so different so fast. As I grew the beard, everyone was slowly introduced to bearded Bran, including myself. And taking it all off with a few strokes of the clippers was a bit jarring. I had the beard for nearly three months and it just became a part of me as if it were always there and suddenly it wasn’t. I didn’t recognize the smooth stranger in the bathroom mirror.
I didn’t like everyone’s reaction. I didn’t even like my own. I didn’t regret buzzing it off but I do like the way I look better with a beard. But my face feels so much better without one. When I had the beard, I combed and clipped and conditioned and even through in some argon oil to soften the facial hair but it still felt too rough for my liking. And sometimes when I slept on my side or stomach, the facial hair against the pillow really irritated my cheeks.
I also realized maintaining facial hair was actually more intensive than just shaving it clean off. There’s a lot of maintenance involved. Clipping. Washing. Conditioning. Keeping the neckline even and clean. Trying not to get food or bugs or girls’ fingers caught in it. Serious upkeep.
Yes, the beard will come back but I won’t do it for anyone else but myself. This is kind of a big deal because I’ve always been so used to doing things the way others wanted, living and looking the way others have dictated. But I’m not doing that anymore. In fact, I am thinking about holding off on growing the beard back even longer than I normally would just out of spite! Take that, jerks.
It’s gonna be my choice, no one else’s. And I’m going to rock it either way.
|I think just about every guy has done this at least one time when debearding.|
“And every demon wants his pound of flesh…”
-Florence and the Machine, Shake it Out
Do we all have demons? Are we all required to claim a vice at the beginning of our lives? The world is stained red and we have to suit up with sex or alcohol just to make it through. We all feel the pull of pain and we choose different methods of self-medicating.
My method’s with the marshmallows. I eat my feelings. I stuff down my pain with pasta. I’m fat. I’m in the fat group. That’s my addiction. That’s my comfort. That’s my demon. And it’s disheartening to know I’m a part of such a problem.
I’m the fat stomach the camera from one of those news segments covering “Fat America” zooms in on as I walk across the street. I’m the open mouth stuffing fries into my face. I am the target audience for diet pill advertisements and fat burning exercise infomercials. I am inundated with Burger King coupons and thin model magazines. I’m torn between the temptation and the torture. My brain is assaulted by all these mixed messages of decadence and deltoids.
The holidays hit me pretty hard. I have to admit, despite my weight loss and my new healthy attitude toward food, I’m still addicted to the (good) bad stuff. And for the past two months, I have shoveled food in my mouth at any given opportunity. Naturally, I let myself go during Thanksgiving and Christmas but I also went wild in the days between. Let’s not forget my birthday was also wedged in there so I had to celebrate with a gigantic pizza and cake. I ate a lot of fast food and couldn’t wait until dessert so I could dig into marble cake with whipped icing or Mom’s homemade peanut butter balls with almond bark. I ate with abandon and didn’t give a crap.
I always justified my eating habits by saying it was a temporary holiday thing and I would go back to normal after Christmas. But now that it’s the new year, things are hard. All I want is more cake and that’s something I wouldn’t have dreamed of five months ago. Did I somehow change my chemicals by eating healthier and then changed them again by eating garbage?
If so, the transition begins yet again.
Feel free to skip this as it has no significance other than me ranting about retail and who really gives a crap?
Now that Christmas is over, the boss has decided who, out of the seasonal help, he wants to keep. It’s pretty much everyone. I can’t say I agree with his choices.
After Christmas, the hours are cut way back for everyone. There aren’t many hours to hand out to the usual workers and now they have to be split up and handed out and shared among the new people, too.
I’m also not to happy with the ones staying, especially in my department. They hired this pixie of a girl who talks like a squeaky mouse and breathes like she is about to hyperventilate. She’s too timid and shy to be working with the public.
Another new guy plays the race card a lot. I confused him with another new worker one day and he blurted out, “Oh, so you thought he was me because we’re both black, right?” Um, no, I confuse a lot of people with others.
And one day he and I and another coworker were talking about shows we liked and she said she loved the Tyler Perry shows and I told her I wasn’t into the shows, or Madea, for that matter. He said he didn’t like her, either, and I said, “Oh, really?”
“You’re surprised? Why? ‘Cause I’m black I’m supposed to like Madea?” Um, no, I just thought everyone loved Madea except me.
And then one day he heard me singing to one of the annoying Christmas songs and joked I should be on The Voice. He said I would probably partner up with Blake Shelton (why, because I’m white?) and then added, “I’d like to go on that show, too. I’d partner up with that Adam guy. I bet you thought I was going to say Cee Lo, didn’t you?”
He says those things in a joking manner but he’s done it too much for there not to be a hint of truth to his joking accusations and I guess he thinks I’m secretly a racist or something, although I can’t imagine why because I’ve never done anything to give him that impression. I have fought hard in my life to show no signs of prejudice toward anyone. I honestly don’t care if you are black or white or gay or straight or Christian or atheist or anything in between. People are people and everyone deserves respect. And so when this new guys blows in and starts making those kinds of digs at me, it frustrates me and now makes me feel uncomfortable around him. I’m worried I’ve got to watch what I say now ’cause he might get a stick up his ass.
And the other black guy mentioned earlier was a total douche. He was an older man who wore crushed velvet blazers and bright orange corduroy pants and red handkerchiefs in his back pocket and thought he was a fashion expert. He was also a pastor and always spoke with that deep, reverberating pastor’s voice as if he was sermoning to every customer he came across.
“Yes, sir, let me get you that three pack of men’s briefs, God almighty! Would you like to praise Jesus with a matching set of undershirts?”
He was annoying from the moment he filled out the application. He came up to me and asked to speak to the store supervisor because he wanted the boss to put a face to his resume. The boss wasn’t there so he spoke to a department supervisor who pulled his application and then talked to him a bit. He rambled on about how he knew how to fit for a suit and knew how to tie a tie in fifteen different ways and knew about jean washes and how to coordinate colors and patterns and all of his experience working with the public and how he was a school teacher during the week and a pastor on Sundays and just went totally overboard with his qualifications like he was interviewing at Nordstrom or something. The department supervisor went ahead and made an appointment for an interview. When she left, he looked at me and said, “Now that’s how you get that done. You see, there?”
Little did he know they will hire anyone as long as they don’t have any open sores and can breathe. He probably didn’t need to bring that affidavit or the stool samples.
I waited a whole year for this picture.
When I saw the picture of my sister and me together last Christmas, I was heartbroken. I was so big. How did I get that large and not notice? I’m sure I was in denial, sure I could ignore it until things in my life changed for the better so I could focus on bettering myself. But nothing changed and when I saw the photo, I knew I had to be that change.
I told myself I would not repeat that Christmas picture looking the way I did. Long time readers will know I’ve been dieting and exercising all year. I’ve lost approximately 50 pounds. I’ve probably gained at least 10 of them back in the past 2 months (I’ve been too ashamed to weigh myself lately so I don’t know the exact number) due to birthday bingeing but that’s another entry for another time. For now, I want to focus on the positive. Yes, I actually can do that sometimes.
I was excited to take this year’s Christmas picture, anxious to see the changes. It wasn’t as big of a transformation as I was hoping. Sure, clothing and lighting and angles play a significant role in revealing the body but I thought 50 pounds would show a more dramatic change. That’s not to say I’m not happy with the difference. I definitely look better and I’m happier where I am right now. I can mostly tell in my face, which is good. But I still have a belly.
I’m working on it, though. I didn’t put the weight on in a year and it will take more than a year to lose it.
I’m cool with that as long as I’m always making progress.
Starting January 1st, I’m going to begin my diet and exercise anew and at the end of the year, I’ll take another Christmas picture and hopefully I’ll see more positive changes. And no man boobs.
|Left: Christmas 2011 with my sister. Right: Christmas 2012 with my sister.|
Having lost a little over 50 pounds and wishing to change my appearance further, I wanted to grow a beard. No Shave November was coming up so I thought it would be a great time to try it. I have always wanted to, mostly just to see if I could, but also to see how I’d look with one.
I thought growing a beard would reduce blemishes while covering up current ones (which it has). I thought having a beard would save time not having to shave (which it hasn’t because trying to groom the beard is just as time consuming as shaving it off). I also thought it would be cool to grow a thick beard and use it as a shield. You know how some people can hide behind their glasses or heavy makeup? I don’t have those options so I thought I could keep people at a distance with my beard. For a dude who sometimes strongly craves a connection with others, I also want to push myself away a lot of the time. I know. It’s messed up.
I actually stopped shaving mid-October when I took my staycation because I have never grown one before and I knew Thanksgiving was coming up so I wanted to try to get a pre-beard going so I could shape it up and make it presentable in front of the relatives in time for the holiday.
After a week of not shaving, I went back to work and was surprised to find a positive response. For me, I thought I looked just kind of dirty. But all the girls not only approved but gave me a lot of compliments. It was nice. It was also very surprising. I always thought girls generally shied away from fuzzy faced men. Sure, there are ladies who are happy with hirsute gentlemen but I thought they were in the minority. I was wrong.
Amazingly, the general consensus was that my beard is good.
I’ve learned a lot about my beard this month. First of all, it’s a multitude of colors, ranging from brown to blonde to-get this-red! In fact, a large patch of hair on my right cheek is a nice coppery color. Who knew I was a ginger? I guess that partly explains why I have no soul.
Also, it grows in every direction possible. The hair on my left side grows down. The hair on my chin grows to the right and the hair on my right side actually grows toward horizontally across my cheek. This has made it difficult to maintain the uniformity of the beard while trimming. I don’t know if trimming is allowed during No Shave November. It probably isn’t but I work with the public so I have to maintain some sense of being groomed.
Not only did I want to cut down on the mountain man look but I also hoped frequent trimming would tame the quickly growing hairs while allowing for the tiny baby hairs to catch up and fill in.
Now, No Shave November is over and although I didn’t exactly grow the beard just for November but in some ways, I’m ready to shave it off. Now I face a seemingly unimportant decision: do I shave or do I keep it? It’s not a decision I’m taking lightly. I’m not developing an ulcer over it or anything but I’ve worked really hard on this bad boy. I’ve clipped and trimmed and plucked and sculpted and shampooed and washed and itched and scratched and sure if I shave it, it will grow back. But it took a long time to get it the way it is now and I don’t want to have to go through all that prep again.
Plus, I’m saving a lot on razors.