After I wrote yesterday’s blog I started thinking about my early posts. As I’ve said a few times before here, although I love that people enjoy reading my blogs I do (maybe somewhat selfishly) write them primarily for myself.
Lately I’ve also realised that I’ve started to use writing like other people use sudoku – to relax and also stimulate my mind. Initially though my posts were primarily deployed solely as a method of creative therapy. They enabled me to gradually unpick and understand my thought processes as I laid them bare on the page day after day.
By the time I post this I’ll have done that 415 times – which I estimate equates to around 500,000 words.
I’m still not sure quite why I felt so compelled to do this in public – or why I suddenly became so prolific. I’ve certainly never craved the limelight in the past – and instead I’ve often actively avoided it. Oddly though, when I began to present myself in print with absolute honesty I felt less vulnerable when I shared my deepest darkest secrets with the whole world than when I took a picture of myself or looked in a mirror.
The thought of not only taking a snap of myself, but then resisting the urge to immediately delete it, and then even uploading it was very far away back then.
I hated the way I looked.
That final step took a while to do – but I’m glad that relatively early on I began to include photos in my posts in an attempt to ‘normalise’ my mental image of myself through my blog and my Instagram page (link).
I remember suddenly feeling that it was vitally important to show where I had started and where I was going. I’d hidden for so long from cameras that my mental image of myself was insanely warped and this made a gradual but profound difference to my self esteem.
I feel very different about how I look now.
Instagram comes with a cool partner app called ‘layout’ which allows you to easily make comparison photos (such as the full length mirror one below).
I use it a lot lately to look at myself ‘before and after‘ in side by side shots.
Sometimes though (in a less immediate and more personal way) I can also achieve a similar effect with words – and this usually happens when I re-read a contemporary post that’s written when I’m happy and feel like I’m winning at life before flipping back to the beginning of my blog and picking a post at random.
When I went back to February 2016 this morning and read ‘little kettle’ it took me right back to a period before I joined Slimming World where I could barely move and was still wrestling with the reality of how to manage my time without alcohol.
It’s worth reading it before you continue.
Don’t worry. I can wait.
Ok – I’ll carry on.
It’s (unbelievably) almost six hundred days since I last had anything to drink and although there are times I think about it in a whistful way I don’t really miss it at all any more.
Things have moved on.
Back then thay hadn’t though. The title of the post had come from a conversation with a work colleague. We’d been chatting about the height of the personal (metaphorical) mountains that we felt we both had to climb – and he had said to me by way of encouragement ‘you can’t boil the ocean’.
He’s right. You can’t fix everything in one go. You just have to start wherever you can and persist.
It also seemed very apt at the time because it hadn’t been all that long since I’d truly felt like I was drowning. My mother had not long died (that’s why I refer to a bungalow being emptied) and I honestly could have followed her any minute immediately afterwards if I hadn’t take decisive action to change.
My exercise bike was agonising to sit on, and I could barely pedal because of the way my 66 inch waist rested and bounced upon my legs. I managed under five minutes freewheeling with no resistance and I remember it absolutely corpsed me.
As I read that old post it’s quite sobering to re-live how I felt both physically and mentally back then. I was trapped (or at least I thought I was) by circumstance, the literal and figurative weight of my past choices – and for longer than I could remember I’d thought there was no way out.
Before the 26th of January 2016 I was just waiting to die.
But then just like pasting photos into layout and looking at a time lapse of myself I can now wind the clock forward 20 months to what I write in the present and there’s currently a different person constructing this post.
The list of his scale and non-scale victories is lengthy.
(author takes a deep breath)
His type two diabetes is in full retreat, his back is no longer agonisingly painful every moment of every day, his knees don’t continually hurt, he can stand still without physically shaking from the effort, he no longer suffers from cellulitis, his tendons aren’t torn, his ligaments have repaired, his ankles are not continually swollen with fluid, his rest is not continually interrupted by sleep apnoea, his skin adores sunlight, he smells better, he can breathe lying on his back, he’s not continually sweating, he’s no longer wheezing all the time, he can fit in a bath, his blood pressure is normal, his resting heart rate is around 20 bpm lower than it used to be, he can wear seatbelts in any car, he can sit in any chair – including fixed booth seating, he has dropped 109 kg, he has lost 26 inches from his waistline, he buys clothes for a pittance from charity shops and supermarkets instead of highly priced specialist retailers, he doesn’t wear glasses because his eyesight is sharper, he jogs up stairs instead of taking the escalator, he walks an average of seventy miles a week, he can climb mountains, he has cumulatively crossed continents, his mind is continually alive – and his sense of hope actually exists.
In fact I’m almost the me I always wanted to be but never knew how to become.
I was ashamed to be the other man – but I’m proud to be the one I am now – regardless of my scars, stretch marks, loose skin and other assorted battle wounds. Despite all of it I’m still standing and I’m putting one foot in front of the other, day after day, after day after day.
You see – the thing is that my friend was right. You can’t boil the ocean. It’s simply not possible.
You can however drown if you don’t try to swim – but every time you paddle a bit more you edge closer to the shore.
You might not get there in a day internet. You probably won’t get there in a week. It even may take months.
If you’re anything like me it will probably take years – but you CAN get there.