Moving beyond old limitations.

I had an interesting experience a couple of weeks ago. I was getting a massage treatment when the masseuse realised that one of my ribs was in fact, dislocated. It wasn’t a recent development, there was no accident in which it had occurred. It was just my rib cage and it had always been like that. My bottom right rib, raised up jutting out a little from my body. The masseuse promptly took the opportunity to try and put the rib back where it was supposed to be.

Now let me say this up front, having a rib slot back into place isn’t a pleasing experience. In fact it’s a fairly crappy experience, especially when it has been out of place for as long as one can remember. As people, I have found that we often build much of our identity around who we are and what we can do, especially physically. In my case the rib has always been something I have disliked about myself and something that has caused me much distress over the years. It led to me feeling very self conscious about taking my shirt off. Subconsciously I felt exposed on some level and as a result I hunched and developed a curvature of the spine, I also had a massive discomfort at the idea of anyone touching my chest region. As you can imagine, over my formative years this must have had an impact on my social and personal development.How could it not? Whenever I looked in a mirror I saw something that was ugly and freakish about me.

I am lucky though. I’ve never had any pain from this problem and my body functions well enough to let me do all that I wish. For that I am grateful, but it has been one of those things about myself I have been trying to fix for over twenty years. On this day though the problem was seemingly identified and sure enough though the rib went back where it was supposed to go. In moments this freakish aspect of myself was no more.

When it happened there was a lot going through my head. Why after all the people have I seen over the years for various conditions, (including fractured ribs that required x-rays), had no one realised until now? A sort of mental anguish washed over me. An action so simple had rectified this problem. Something so simple that if it had been done twenty years ago, I had to wonder if I would have been the same person I am today. Would I have kept the same friends? Pursued the same studies? Might I have been more active in sports if I subconsciously wasn’t always protecting myself.  I often muse on the idea that who you are today is a result of the things that occur to you over your life. Sometime there is a specific event you can pinpoint, other times it is a random moment lost in the shroud of time.

It may not even make a difference. After all, perhaps we are at this moment who we are at this moment and everything else doesn’t exist. There is so much to consider when you reflect on yourself, especially in the aftermath of profound change. I always thought my of my problems were fixable, contrary to the opinions of specialists, did that have an impact? The desire for self healing and change can be powerful. It can move mountains. Gautama Buddha said “With our thoughts we make the world.” and even though I remember this because it was at the start of the old TV show Monkey Magic, the statement still rings true to me.

It can be hard to change yourself, especially when it comes to those aspects of you that have been a part of your life for as long as you can remember. It can be harder changing when everyone says that is just how it is and sometimes the problem is that which you can’t clearly see. I remember reading somewhere, and it is something that I have often repeated, that the one constant in everything in your life is you. You need to accept that you are in charge of you and being able to make better decisions about your own life you would think, would have to include being aware of yourself as much as possible.

So a new chapter begins and it will be interesting to see how much of issues in my life that I am dissatisfied with will start to shift with the physical changes. Will my interactions with other be different, even the way I use my body in the day to day must be affected. Then there is all the physical things that I do in life. They will certainly be affected by the change. That is part of the fun when you have those real moments of change. Shifts in old patterns and behaviours, recognising what you do and why you do it. It is those moments that open a new world of possibility and make you start to wonder if other things can be changed too. It only took twenty years to sort this problem, I am certain I can solve the next one a lot faster.

Too buff for the wet suit.

There was a time when I was ripped. Not an ounce of fat could be found on me. I could (and did) swim a 20km swim to raise money for something and I was firing on all cylinders like a champion. I was twelve. At the time, I was swimming 13 times a week, average session length was 2hrs. I was about as fit as someone can get. I don’t swim like that anymore. I can’t imagine how I did it at the time. I have a life now that precludes that insane level of training. As I slowly stopped swimming the fitness dropped. What can I say, there was high school and of course there were girls. The idea of spending that much time staring at a line in the bottom of a pool lost its importance.

Time went on. I still maintained a fairly good figure with little effort. I was doing a little martial arts, occasional swimming and always up to stuff with my mates on the weekend. My metabolism was incredible. Not matter how much I ate, I burned it all off. Then one day I turned 30. It wasn’t like the Cinderella and the midnight sort of event. I didn’t simply hit 30 and boom, the spare tyre appeared. It was a progression. I was eating like I did when I was a teenager but sitting down more. Worse, I had money so my diet was becoming something that was more completely under my control. These days there are so many diets and articles floating around, analysing food types and what does what, but back when I was younger, this stuff just wasn’t as prolific as it is these days. I started writing when I wasn’t sitting at a desk and work and exercise became something I did a couple of times a week. After a few years of that I noticed that the spare tyre just wasn’t going away. The crystallising moment for me was the day I went to try on a wetsuit and couldn’t fit into my usual size. Sure the humble wetsuit isn’t the slip on accessory we all imagine but even after excessive inhalation and contortions, I had arrived at the conclusion that, I had pulled that suit on as far as it was ever going to go. The store assistant called from beyond the flimsy moth eaten curtain. “How you going in there?” What I am certain he really wanted to tell me, was that if I split that suit I was going to be buying it. I admitted defeat and called out. “Sorry mate. I’m too fat for this one.” His response was what you would expect from a male surfer and was very much indicative of the male mindset as you start to add a few extra kilos. “Mate, around here, we say, you’re too buff for the wetsuit.”

These days I eat better, my health is excellent, (I made it through India and Nepal and never got sick once.) but the spare tyre hangs around. I know women have all those body issues and I even hear now that men are also now struggling to meet rise up to the expectations set by the models and actors that we see plastered all over the place. (I am fairly certain that if a single issue of Men’s Health went to print without the promise of “Rock Hard Abs” somewhere inside, it would unleash untold horrors onto the world. (As Bruce Campbell is about to do in the new Ash vs the Evil Dead series. Sorry, but I’m really excited about it.) My abs may indeed be rock hard but they are carefully packed away under a little extra padding. I never gave those magazines and films that much time. I know how hard those guys work. For me, the drive comes from the Santa Cruz crew. My friends clustered in and around Bondi. They eat well, exercise and as a general rule, all look in pretty good condition. (Those sons of bitches.) They don’t really care if I am sporting a gut but it helps as a reminder that I should be making an effort, so I am motivated. I don’t want to be the buffest guy at Bondi, but I always make an effort to try and get into shape other than Buddha shape. The trouble is exercise. And food. And the fact that I enjoy writing.

Exercise and I have an interesting relationship. I always enjoy when I am doing it. Getting the pump, the stretch, sweating, the fresh air. Early morning wakes ups don’t even bother me. Getting out of bed though. That is where the problem lies. I’m no fool. I set an alarm. It goes off, and even when my mind is sharp and I am feeling refreshed, the evil monster inside of me reminds me of how comfortable my bed is. How good that perfect warmth is. How the pillow is now in the perfect mould around my head. The idea of forcing myself from this condition and completing even a solitary push up is sometimes unthinkable. I’m staying with my parents as I rebuild my finances. The place they live has a heated lap pool. Yes, that’s right. Heated. And if you think for one second I am going to leave my cosy bed and jump into a pool at 6am, you are out of your mind.

Food, glorious food. I love food. I eat well. I love a simple meal of steamed veggies, salad and a bit of meat or eggs. Not much in the way of pasta, grains or potato in my diet. I have even cut out the desserts (mostly) and the late night chocolate or biscuits (on occasion, though that is mostly because I didn’t pick some up from the shops.) Of course when I start writing, I like to snack. When I binge watch TV a snack or two goes well. Go to the movies, better get a choc top. Visit friends. Food time! Yup, I love my food. I like to cook too. You can bet that they are all meals that aren’t going to help with the weight loss, especially when it tastes so darn good that I have a bit extra. Luckily there is wine to wash it all down.

Yup. The war between myself and the spare tyre goes on. I will be moving back to Bondi in time for some of the summer and I am looking forward to the runs on the beaches, the work out on the bars. The swimming in the ocean. My favourite butcher, coffee shop, gelato bar, fruit and veggie market, and places to have a cheeky drink or three. Luckily I have my friends as a reminder, except when they are busy exercising. (Because screw that.) It’s a war of attrition and sooner or later one of us will emerge the victor. Let’s just hope it’s not the Michelin Man.