48 and 49

I am 49. This is the 48th month of my Rebuild.

When i started this process four years ago, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was in a very deep well. I know I had to do something. I doubted myself. I felt horrible. I would later discover that I was put there through gaslighting. Regardless, it was the spark for me to get this all going. I likened this to regeneration. It’s a regrowth. A renewal. A rebuild.

The name change came first. At the time, I didn’t realize why I shook up my Mom so much. She thought I was going to do a legal name change, which would require my full birth certificate, not the shorthand laminated card I had. That would have revealed that the “father” spot was blank. After my Mom’s death, I learned that my (now half-) sister had been blackmailing my Mother to keep the truth under wraps. Whenever my sister was under threat of losing an argument or not getting money out of my Mother, she would threaten to tell me that the deadbeat who I thought was my dad was not my father at all. My Mom lived in fear of that emerging and never revealed it to me while she was alive.

In 2014, I got a stable job and starting to lose the weight. I thought: “let’s roll with this.” I dubbed the process I was going through, “The Rebuild.” A repair of my body, my finances and my outlook.

My friend, Erin, and I started seeing each other. While women had shown an interest in years before, nothing even remotely happened. Flirty interactions were squelched well before they became anything tangible. Until the Fall of 2014, I didn’t feel secure to consider seeing anyone. In some cases, I didn’t feel like I was worthy, having set a standard in my head and slapping myself should I consider myself to be overreaching.

In 2015, the wife and I split after I learned of her years of her full-spectrum dishonesty. That led to a lot of fair weather friends following suit. About a dozen had been complicit and helped her keep a lot of hurtful secrets: I ditched them. After the split, some of the spectators shunned me. I had two literally turn them back on me at the grocery store and stare intently at the meat slicer behind the deli counter. I had one cross the street rather than get within 10 feet of me. I know what I endured. I know their role. I now know who those people are better than they may even know themselves. While losing so many bodies is painful, ejecting so many of their ilk all at once was a seismic shift. It led to a lot of soul searching and despondency at the time. The proactive shunning still stings. The apologists are people who give away their true character. I think I’m in a place where I know who my friends are and who are the spectators. It’s massive to get that sort of clarity. I’m not alone seeing the merits of a social reset.

In Spring of 2015, we discovered that my Mom was dying of cancer. She passed on shortly after Thanksgiving that year. My Mom did a lot to keep the peace in the family and with her passing, it felt like post-Tito Yugoslavia. That eventually led to an estrangement with my Mom’s side of the family.

I have often thought about thoroughly supported people: those with lots of friends, lots of family, lots of money and lots of opportunity. I have thought that they didn’t know how to be a self-starter. I was poor as a kid. I was fat and open to mockery that has few defenders. Still, I bootstrapped. I was able to buy a house while self-employed. I was able to survive for years in a town where a five-digit web project brings on sticker shock. I don’t enjoy doing something big without a support network, but I’ve done it before.

By the end of 2015, most of the structure and stability I had was gone. I would never have sacrificed my Mother to go where I would go next. Looking back and seeing how those structures and protections were blown away was the turning point for what I needed to do. Those structures kept me where I was: unhappy, fat and desperate. It wasn’t a bungalow: it was prison. I had learned to be institutionalized and live in captivity. If there is truth to my spirit animal being a wolf, I could imagine no worse fate than to keep a wolf locked up for so long. In this long process, 2015 was The Empire Strikes Back where our plucky heroes lose a space pirate, a rebel base and a perfectly good hand.

2016 was clean-up and walking the road. The Internet lets people Google their way to success. Geeks have replaced experts. You don’t have to have the depth of knowledge needed to succeed, you can fake it ‘til you make it. My job at UVic was with experts in their particular fields. It was invaluable for seeing what it looks like to sink into the depths of a topic and know so much about it. Writing a novel length work doesn’t take skill: it just takes time. People barf out 100,000 words into Twitter or Facebook without trying. Upto 2016, I had always felt like I was working without the foundation beneath me. I was a lucky geek, rather than a learned expert. In 2016, I worked to change that in earnest. I did start on a novel, but after 5200 words, I stopped. I started web ventures, but killed them before people saw the prototypes. It wasn’t that I gained fear. I lost the capacity to tumble. Blurting something out was my problem. The 2014 novel was to follow after having completed three very bad novels prior. Crafting long works is not my problem: I needed to craft something worth reading.

2016 saw me lose four months into a renovation rabbit hole. The house needed to get sold to liquidate it as an asset so that it could be split. I could have said, “fuck it,” and rage quit the renovation. Part of me thinks that I should have done that. While the Rebuild is a five year mission, by three years in, patterns and practices had established themselves. I was into the mindset of do it, do it right, and finish it. It got done. We were able to take a meager nest egg and go off to breathe for a few months. The rest of 2016 was spent trying to find a new version of normal. 2015 was a mess. I realized now that I didn’t have a firm agenda and my goal of building a life I wanted was hazy at times. In the Fall of 2016, I started exercising in earnest again.

Erin and I signed up for time with a personal trainer. It was costly, but it was rigid. We had set appointments and an impartial trainer who drove us to work as hard as we could. After a few months, I started to get compliments from strangers at the gym who had been following my progress.

2017 is where things are starting to crystalize: this isn’t a new prison. It’s a new launch pad. Until the Fall of 2016, I had lived in Victoria BC. It’s a comfy town that keeps telling itself it’s a metropolis. That gives people a broad form of dysmorphia on everything from housing to jobs to nightlife to culture. We moved to the rural community nearby. Do you remember that scene from the second Lord of the Rings movie, when King Theoden is released from the fog of his spell? It felt like that. We can drive places. We can walk places. We can park the car. There’s no social engineering. After 20 years of being trapped in Victoria, I didn’t realize the toll it was taking on me: this median of mediocrity that is passed off as fabulous. When you leap outside of the fish bowl, you get a sense of how small that bowl really is.

While I am working more than I would like, I am starting to enjoy the financial accomplishments. They feel well deserved and built on a foundation of experience and expertise. What I yield, I earned. The next big idea is coming, but I am going to take a regimented approach to its research and execution.

Erin and I signed our family up for an annual pass at a nearby rec centre. While it’s less focussed than our work with a personal trainer, that’s a plus. I intend to go as often or more often than our three training sessions. I intend to grab a hot tub and a swim thereafter. Then, I intend to do the 40-minute walk home through a combination of woodlands and farm fields. There’s a lot more heavy lifting (no pun intended). A 40-minute walk is about 3000 steps. I need to do 10,000 steps a day to make the weight loss happen. That means I need to unlock two hours per day to walk off the weight. Two hours. Per day. For 100+ days…

Erin and I are prepping our August wedding. With the drama of previous years out of the way, we have the mental bandwidth.

There’s more good news too, that I can’t openly share for the next while. The last 48 months hasn’t been easy. Change isn’t easy, but it is worthwhile. With another 12 months before my 50th birthday, I feel like the course I embarked on before my 45th birthday was essential and it feels like I’m getting somewhere.