A Stranger Faces His Biggest Battle

A Stranger Faces His Biggest Battle

I once asked a business mentor and friend for some advice in how to become successful in business. He looked at me and answered, “You need to lose weight. No-one will ever take you seriously as long as you are overweight.”

He was right.

I have a lot of empathy for women who talk about their experiences of being ogled by strangers and how they need to remind people they are talking to that ‘their eyes are up here!’ Oddly enough I have had very similar experiences and it is very distressing. I actually don’t see myself as grotesquely overweight – the type of overweight that draws stranger’s stares like someone passing a car wreck but apparently that self-perception is wrong because it would seem that I am that car wreck and people are slowing down to look at me.

My size and stature makes for an intimidating presence – one that I work hard to minimise in the counselling room when I am having conversations with my clients and in other venues such as when I am dealing with my tenants breaking the rules in the apartment building I manage I use it to all its glory to pass along a very intimidating message that I mean business. It seems to help break up the parties and to get the riffraff out of the building faster than phoning the police.

But then I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror or I look at myself in a staff or family picture and I am appalled at the man I see. I am at least two or three of those people! I require a large berth around me and like Andre the Giant in the cult movie “The Princess Bride” the crowds of people move to one side to let me pass. For someone who works hard to stay in the background – not even adding my name to this blog and writing a book so very carefully as to not reveal who I am or other incriminating details I seem to have drawn a lot of attention to myself due to my size.

It is not for the sake of trying to lose weight that this problem exists. I probably lose a minimum of 60 pounds a year but inevitably it all comes back and invites some of their friends over as well. For years it was first lost naturally through a yearly 40 day religious fast that I would undertake and at other times it was through deliberate dieting and hard exercise so no – the problem has never been getting rid of the weight. The problem is keeping it off.

Although I had body shame growing up and part of those experiences were accentuated through some negative experiences I had in my youth I was in great shape as a youth and even as I was entering adulthood. I worked out constantly, lifting weights and was very active in sports and other general exercise. I had suffered a sports injury playing volleyball that squashed my lower back that has continued to give me grief all these years later but it wasn’t enough to completely sideline me.

Through my years of hard physical work in the restaurant industry I ended up with carpal tunnel, which I now treat with wearing a brace on either of my arms from time to time. I also ended up with a pinched nerve in my hip, which leads to my leg going completely numb if I am not paying attention or I am in one position for too long. Those things slow me down and limit all that I can do but I can’t really use them as an excuse for where I find myself now.

I am here because I am an emotional eater.

When I lost my brother to suicide I ended up turning to food to numb myself to the immense pain I was feeling. I gained something like 80 pounds that year. Ever since then (it has now been 20 years) when I encounter heavy stress in my life I turn to food – not to feel better but to feel nothing. And as anyone of you readers know, the older you get the more occurrences of heavy stress there will be. This is an unavoidable aspect of life so if I do the math quickly I am freaked out at how large I will end up as I take my last breath!

I need to find a better way. Right now that begins with me talking about it. One stranger to another. Your role is to listen. In this venue it is easy enough to imagine you doing that and so that creates a safe place for me to talk.

Let’s begin…

 

No Consequences

No Consequences

Almost daily I am told stories from my children of people’s bad behaviour. From customers treating one of my daughters rudely while ordering a cake, only to be observed prying open a package of iced cupcakes, sticking their fingers in there, scooping some icing before placing it back on the shelf for some other unknowing customer to take. Or to a driver of a pick-up who turned onto a busy road, cutting off my other daughter and her husband – not to mention the other car coming from behind. Not to be outdone by the disdain of these two vehicles that the truck had just cut off the driver gave the finger through their rear window while the passenger in the same truck opened up their door and proceeded to give the finger while yelling obscenities at the two cars.

But even in non-direct contact people are behaving poorly. There is the oversized pick-up truck at a busy intersection that revs its motor enough to produce what has been called ‘coal-rolling’ or while I am on the topic of drivers how about the more common weaving in and out of traffic, often cutting off drivers and creating very unsafe situations only to be one car length ahead at the next set of lights.

Take them out of their vehicles and they don’t get any better. Recently a friend was waiting in line for tickets to a sporting event. They had been waiting for several hours when suddenly someone who was ahead of them let their friend break into the line. When confronted the newly arrived person in line began to shout obscenities at their accuser – making themselves as threatening as they could in order to intimidate and otherwise batter the others into their own twisted sense of submission.

And that was for a sporting event.

The idea of living in a civilised society is an idea that has evaporated long ago. It is as if no-one wants to participate any longer. Instead they ask the question, “What’s in it for me?” and if they are not satisfied with the answer they mock and take whatever the hell they want. Every once in a while we hear of a ‘pay-it-forward’ type event where you go through a drive-thru only to find out the person in front of you has paid for your coffee. However, those events are so rare and so contrary to the norm that they have become a media event – something newsworthy enough to share with the general population.

How sad.

What would it look like if a single person who was walking down a sidewalk didn’t have to suddenly get off the sidewalk and cross out into a street because a couple of people refused to stop walking side-by-side as they approached this single person walking in the opposite direction? What would it look like if people stopped cutting off other drivers at intersections or stopped driving around someone turning left at an intersection – potentially causing an accident with someone turning left from the opposite direction?

What would it look like if my daughters were able to walk down the street to anywhere without being ogled, mocked, or yelled obscenities at – often filled with sexual references? What would it look like if the only interaction I have with a complete stranger while sitting in my car in a parking lot is their disdain that I have parked next to their car?

Or, what would it look like if the person who hopped out of their truck with their company’s logo emblazoned on the side letting the world know that they are a professional cleaning service didn’t decide in that moment to throw their half eaten sandwich onto the concrete before entering the store? What about if people didn’t stop in the middle of grocery store isles to talk with their friend, blocking the isle from both directions for anyone to walk through and then express their disgust when it is pointed out to them?

Urbanisation has brought all of us together but it doesn’t seem like any of us are happy to be here. It seems like we all would like to be left alone – free to walk down the produce isle of a supermarket eating grapes picked from a bunch, even peeling a banana to have as a snack with no bother to make the purchase but simply treating it like a buffet they haven’t paid to attend. Free to drive down any road at any speed and getting pissed off at those other vehicles that are in their way. Free to do whatever the hell they want to do without suffering any consequences at all.

Perhaps that is a better definition of the problem. This isn’t the loss of a civilised society. This isn’t the bad behaviour of some people exposed for all to see. No, I fear that it is much larger than that. I fear that we have all forgotten about consequences or worse that we have arrived at a place where the word and associated meaning of consequences no longer exists – like it has become our right as a person to not endure any consequences.

At least in Canada this shows itself in some scary ways – like the idea of children being pushed from grade to grade – no-one left behind type thing – no more failing grades – no consequences. The various elaborate social structures that support instant gratification through any means – whether it is the improvement of our cooking processes through the use of a microwave instead of enduring the consequences of having to cook a meal from scratch and making a mistake. Or perhaps it is holding so much technology in the palm of our hand that instantly connects us to the world that our attention span is now less than six seconds in length with no consequences.

This all scares me. The idea that anyone can do anything they want whenever they want to without suffering any consequences is a scary thing. People should never be trusted with such a level of freedom. We can’t handle it. We generally screw that up. And yet, here we are. People can do whatever they want, whenever they want without suffering any consequences. Sure some people get caught doing some things and sometimes there are some consequences but those are the exception to the rule and it has left me terrified of what type of world we now find ourselves in.

Striving For Contentment

Striving For Contentment

What would it look like if the people we desired to impress were only those we were connected with regionally? I am talking in a real geographic way. What would it look like if we took away social media as defined by the internet? What would it look like if we took away the internet? That such a medium never existed. Would I find myself desiring to have as many blog followers as someone’s blog I read who is based in NYC? Would I be comparing my popularity to a dozen different people I don’t know but are connected to via social media and the internet?

What would it look like if my focus was here at home, in the city I lived in and the province I lived in? Instead of being distracted by everything happening everywhere else but here I just desired to be generative locally? Would my sense of disappointment change because right now it is rooted in some weird tangle of internet imposed standards coming at me from all directions of the world?

Would I be caught up in wanting to be the person who discovered the next amazing meme? Or that I would post the next hilarious tweet that suddenly went viral? What would happen if viral in the context of social media wasn’t even a thing? Could I find contentment and satisfaction in my immediate surroundings? Would I be satisfied to only have limited popularity within the contextual setting that I find myself in? Could I find joy knowing that the range of friends that I have are limited to my ability to interact with them in person, or via a letter or occasionally a phone call?

I would still be informed about world current events through pre-internet mediums such as the television, radio, and printed material such as newspapers and magazines but could that be enough? How would I react if the only external exposure I had to mass comparisons came from paying for my groceries and noticing all the covers of the magazines staring back at me. Would I change what I am doing if to keep up to the Jones’ only meant those in my city and not those who live in some exotic locale somewhere else in the world?

Would I be content?

Could I be content?