By Steve Sharpton, Parsons Training, Tucson, Arizona
November 26, 2015
Over three years ago, there was a pretty massive health scare in our family. My oldest aunt and my godmother Cecilia’s kidneys had failed her and she was holed up in a hospital room, clinging to life. Most of the family thought she wasn’t going to make it, and we all once again braced ourselves for the untimely and unthinkable death of another family member. But my aunt Cecilia, who has always prided herself on being tough and stubborn, ultimately survived. There was a price to pay for that day, for she lost much of her eyesight and the use of her kidneys, for she is now on regular dialysis and is on a waiting list for a kidney transplant. Anyway, the ultimate cause of these problems turned out to be complications from her diabetes, which was an issue that was quite rampant on my mother’s side of the family. Well, another tough moment came about this past week, for my aunt Cecilia once again had to have a major surgery to repair some damage to her heart. Considering her age and her health, the very fact she survived illustrates the guile and the fortitude she has to keep pushing forward. She made some strides this year in regaining her health a little, for she moves around with a little more fervor and had a little more vinegar in her blood. While my more religious family will give credit to the power of prayer and such, I choose to believe that strength and simple science played a much larger part in the equation. I’m sure my family will disagree with that sentiment, but then again, I am the weird one in the family.
Almost four years ago, I too was obliviously on a track of self destruction. During the time I have taken control of my life and my health, I had come to the conclusion I was trying to kill myself, only I was doing it through a subconscious, drawn out process. I was eating maybe 5,000 calories of junk a day, with god knows how much fat and sodium were included in each bite. My body was technically on the cusp of full blown destruction, only I was still safe enough to be technically healthy even though I was roughly 400 pounds, couldn’t even run 100 meters and had so many aches and pains just from the simple exercise of walking around. I should have known better when I busted up my first recliner, and then ultimately busted up the next recliner in shorter time. I should have known a lot of things were heading for an impasse, such is the fact I regularly busted chairs and turned my car into a lowrider. I ate so much food, sometimes a simple home party didn’t have enough for me. It was quite apparent at some of our family parties in the early days how much I truly ate, for their would be a lot of leftovers for everyone to actually take home. To this day, I’m still surprised I wasn’t at least pre-diabetic, considering the amount of candy, soda and energy drinks I would devour on a regular basis. But that is the power of youth I suppose, the one time in our life where invincibility gives us a false sense of reality and perception. I was definitely under that trance, for I often times felt I could just flip a switch and become this super healthy beast I always envisioned I could be. I had so many fad diets to choose from, how in the world could I possibly fail in my endeavors?
When I ultimately decided to become a plant based eater, I quickly learned a lot of my new compatriots didn’t like calling Thanksgiving anymore, for the preferred the term “Thanksliving” due to the lack of animal products they used in the process. While I didn’t have the time or the money to get a Field Roast celebration loaf or the turkey loaf from Tofurky, I at least know my family has gotten much better at making Thanksgiving a little more positive for me. But anyway, back to the change in language. I never really thought about the term “Thanksliving” because I always considered it to be some kind of provocative trope meant for resistance and dissidence. But it means something more than that. It truly means what it literally means! You see, for so long I just didn’t believe in living. I have written about this so many times, it has become a bit of a cliche topic in regards to this blog. But I cannot reiterate how important it is. This past week, I sort of had a going away party with a couple of my friends, merely for the sake I really wanted to see them before I start spending all my time moving product and wishing I had found a better job. We always have a rather no holds barred subject list when we discuss life and what not, but I also had a staunch realization. I am starting to live a little more, even if the finances are tight and my life is a bit of a whirlwind. I have pursued women I thought were interesting and attractive (which so far have led to dismissals, hehe), unlike the old days where I would just drink myself into a frenzy and then watch sports the next day. I have even accepted the idea that yes, some people do look at me with a hint of respect rather than just another pair of arms that is willing to do the dirty work for them. I mentioned last week some knuckleheads poked a little fun at me when I refused to eat the animal product-laden feast my comply had put in our lunch room. I spoke with a strength that “I choose” to not eat that stuff. I always utilized the verbiage “I can’t” eat it because of my beliefs, but it was ultimately shot down as a rather weak excuse by my friend Stacey a couple weeks before. It was quite hilarious during my first weekend as a “supervisor,” for a couple of the yahoos that sort of egged me on about not wanting turkey and ham were kinda wishing I was back on the trucks with them, most likely because I was so good at picking up their slack and making everyone look good. There was a little moment to find thanks in that regard as well, for here I was in the best shape of my life and I could easily outperform people who were much younger than me. I know I am one of the healthiest and hardest working people at that place, but it only seems to be noticed when I am absent!
“Thanksliving” also means something else for me…anxiety! While I have come to terms with my sordid past and the realizations of what I was trying to do to myself, how in the world do I now deal with the future? I’ll admit, my mood has been pretty up and down for the most part, ranging from sadness when I get ignored romantically to the utter anger of a potential employer not even giving the chance to talk to them in an interview. I used to be so good at life, for fixing all of life’s problems were just a pizza and a bag of Starburst away from being remedied. So why should I be so happy about experiencing weird and complex emotions that are meant to make us rather melancholy or even uncomfortable? Well, think about some of the nonsense going on right now in our world. So many people are emotionally immature and distance they ultimately lash out over dumb and ridiculous trolling, like the fat religious idiot that actually made some headway over a stupid coffee cup during a week people were washing up on shores or getting killed from bombs and war. I would probably be one of those people endlessly arguing over such dumb and pointless “controversies,” for my lack of emotional acuity and my desire to stay distant from these sometimes difficult feelings would make it easier to cling to the easiest ideals on the emotional spectrum….love and hate. There was great scene from “Donnie Darko” where this bizarre “Love-Hate” exercise was being forced upon the students of Donnie’s high school. Donnie pointed out the world is much more complex than just focusing on two completely opposite spectrums. Of course, he also gave into the vortex that is created by those who choose not to acknowledge the wide open spectrum, telling his teacher to “forcibly insert an eraser into her anus.” In a lot of ways, I was a lot like Donnie at first, angry at people for not seeing the world as I am seeing it right now. But I have to be thankful that I’m finally growing up in a way. For so long, I just didn’t care about anything, for I either loved something or truly hated it (of course, I rarely loved anything because hate was so strong in my veins, especially since so much of that hate was directed at myself). Now I can actually experience indifference or quelled excitement or even cautious disagreement. See, I’m even making up new emotional states as I write!
While I wish my aunt was in better health these days, I guess she has somewhat fulfilled her godmother role. You see, in the catholic faith, your godparents are supposed to be an example for your life and the way you approach things. My aunt’s sickness was one of many reasons why I am where I am today, for her illness and near death compelled my parents to make a “Hail Mary” pass for me to save my life and my health. Personally, I just did it to kind of placate them, much like I had done with many other things in my life before that (I was such a middle child!). I never would have thought I would reach the point where I would enjoy it! My mother was especially thankful, for the last couple years she has been dealing with heart ailments that were the direct result of her own poor eating. I am glad she is happy the money she and my father spent was well utilized. Now comes the hard part for me…..how will I maintain my life during the difficult six weeks that are staring me in the eye? Of course, that will be something to address in the next blog post.
It was kind of funny on Tuesday when I talked to my friends about life and how things were moving along. I once again saw some photos of myself and realized I haven’t really aged much in the last few years, in spite of the stress and the problems I have fun into. I think this might be in large part to a level of contentment I am starting to experience, that maybe I can learn to love myself a little more each day. This is still the toughest and most difficult issue for me to overcome, because when you love to despise yourself for so long, it is equally hard to love yourself again. Right now, I am veering a little bit away from the old cues of loving myself due to the results of the scale and the results of my clothing getting smaller (which both are happening). I just have to trust that change is coming and maybe someday I will eventually be clean from all the anger and such that used to riddle my life. Now that would make for a good “Thanksliving” dinner.
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Steve, a Parsons Training Client, went from 400 pounds to Running half-marathons, from lifting pizzas to lifting hundreds of pounds through training with us.