The Long, Dark Silence of the Soul

Long Dark Silence

Ever had a morning filled with good intentions and glorious plans for achievement? Only to arrive at the evening discovering that you not only didn’t accomplish anything but may have actually taken a step or two backward during the course of the day?

Yeah, I’ve had several months in a row like that.

Once upon a time, Misdirected was written every day of the week.

Then, it devolved to a couple times a week, as other projects ramped up.

Eventually, I moved it to a once a week publication schedule, determined to not let it slide any further back.

But nowadays, I am lucky to get out one post a month.

So, what happened?

The Things We Do Not Talk About

First, let me qualify: It isn’t that I don’t have anything to say. It is more a case of not wanting to say it.

Which is unusual, for me, as you all well know. I can talk about epilepsy until I am blue in the face. I am willing to expose the dark underbelly (see what I did there?) of obesity. I’ve taken the Misdirected audience day-by-day through the good, bad, and ugly of bariatric surgery.

But the elephant in the room is that which I don’t talk about – the one subject that makes me intensely uncomfortable. I’ve tried to talk about it, heaven knows. My “Drafts” folder here is filled to the brim with halfway done to totally completed articles that never saw the light of day. A few even made it all the way to the final step before publication – the “Lor Review.” She would read them, shake her head a bit, and ask if I really wanted to publish that post.

See, the subject I am talking about is Depression.

Oh, THIS Again

In my opinion, the major problem with understanding Depression comes from its name. “Depression.” It sounds very straightforward – just a case of the blues, or “Feelz bad, man.”

I wish the folks that had named depression had called it something more descriptive. Maybe if they had named the diagnosis “I Hate Myself And I Want To Die And I Can’t Even Get Out of Bed Why The Hell Won’t You Just Leave Me Alone” it would have a bit more impact on those trying to understand it from the outside.

The frustrating thing is, there are so many of us suffering from this illness. Yet it still gets blown off. People say we are lazy, that we are feeling sorry for ourselves, that we need to just get over it.

Pretty similar to the way outsiders look at a diagnosis of chronic obesity, now that I am looking at the words in print. Interesting, that.

But, the fact of the matter is, I don’t have an explanation for my condition. For someone who has had life hand me pre-squeezed lemons, I’ve done pretty well. I’ve lived longer than I was expected to. I’ve accomplished personal and professional goals. I have loving meaningful relationships with my family and my spouse.

And, at the end of the day, I still feel worthless.

Self-Worth: What Aisle Is That On?

Still don’t get it? Don’t feel bad, many people don’t. Let me give you an example, for those who might not understand the mechanics of depression.

Last night we went to the 5 year anniversary for DaVita Bariatrics, the practice that performed the sleeve operations for both Lor and I. Being surrounded by success stories was nice. While we all chatted and praised each other’s progress, before and after photos of certain patients were projected on the wall. Lor’s looked amazing. Looking at mine, though, I literally could not see the “after” photo. All I could focus on was the “before” shot. There I sat, looking dejected and exhausted at my Mother-in-Laws at Christmas 2015. I weighed 300 pounds and in the picture, I look like I am pushing 400.

Standing there, surrounded by success stories, I couldn’t take my eyes off of what was supposedly the “old” me.

Yup, I thought, there I am. That is who I am.

Dropping the Bomb

And I am one of the lucky few who actually has a family who understands the condition. They’ve been down this road before with me. In fact, my family will be horrified when they read this. “Why didn’t you tell us?”

Well, guys, mainly because I am sick of being a burden. As anyone who has had to rely on an entire infrastructure of people just to make it from day to day will tell you, it gets old asking for help. Especially when you are convinced that those who are your support structure are secretly exhausted with your constant demands. This is why so many suffering from depression eventually commit suicide. It isn’t because they are out to do permanent emotional damage to their families and loved ones. It is because those of us suffering from the condition are convinced that the lives of those around them will be improved by our absence.

Now, nobody panic. I am not suffering from suicidal ideation currently. But, as someone who has walked those roads, I can tell you exactly what the thought process is. Those of us who suffer from depression don’t talk about it because we are embarrassed. We are ashamed. And we are exhausted from dealing with this condition that never seems to get better.

So, we assume that those who love us must also be embarrassed by us. That they must be secretly ashamed of us. That they have to be exhausted from caring for us.

So, we keep our mouths shut. And when everyone asks how we are doing, we say “Fine.”

Then we change the subject.

The Enemy In Action

Allow me to describe how depression affects your thinking.

While we were in California last week, jeremycschofield.com went down. There was an issue between my hosting provider and the company I used to originally register the domain name. (Who knew?) So, when we got home, I discovered that my website had not been functional for almost a week.

Initially, I scrambled to get everything back up and running. But, once repairs were carried out, I was suddenly done with the process. It just all seemed so overwhelming and exhausting.

I should’ve put out an email to my followers explaining what happened. I didn’t.

Even a post on Twitter and Facebook would have been a good idea. But, I didn’t do either.

Why not? Because I was unable to convince myself that anyone cared enough to hear about it. This despite the fact that my very own statistics showed that I had several hundred people a day visiting Misdirected. I literally could not make the evidence in front of my eyes overcome the feeling of worthlessness inside my head.

The conclusions that a person suffering from depression arrives at make no logical sense. But this disconnect exists everywhere around me. When I speak to Lor I can’t figure out why she is married to me. Looking around my house, I am positive that “someone” is going to take it away from me. I stare at my Personal Training Certificate on the wall and have no idea how I ever managed to earn it.

I can even hold a copy of Inheritance in my hand, and still feel as though someone else must’ve written it.  In fact, my personal copy now sits on a shelf above my head, buried under spiral notebooks filled with other things. I don’t want to have to look at it anymore.

Daylight

It took Wil Wheaton’s blog post from a few days ago to motivate me to tackle this head-on. If someone as successful as he is can still be wrestling with these invisible demons, and brave enough to admit it, then the least I can do is tell the truth as well. I not only owe it to my loved ones, but I owe it to anyone else going through this. It needs to be said: if you are suffering from depression, you are not alone. You are not the only one on the face of the planet feeling the way you do.

So, before any of my readers starts worrying, let me just say that I am ok. Well, not exactly ok. I am SAFE is a better word. Lor, bless her heart, is staying on top of me. This ain’t her first rodeo. Which comes back to making me feel like crap for putting her through this, but, yeah. At some point, I have to accept that those around me put up with me out of love and not because they are all masochists.

But it has become apparent that I am going to have to go back into some kind of therapy/treatment. Back, you say? Yeah, I struggled with depression, self-loathing and suicidal thoughts for years after developing epilepsy. Only the love and support of my family and a very talented counselor got me through it.

So, if this ain’t my first go-round, why haven’t I just gotten some help, you might ask. That’s the tricky thing about depression. I just keep waiting to wake up and feel ok again. After all, I had just started to turn the corner. Things were looking up – 2017 was an awesome year for me.

So, why would anyone believe me when I say I’ve relapsed? Never mind that I obviously have. Surely a professional is just going to pat me on the back and tell me “Chin up” or something…right?

TL;DR (Because Why Would You?)

Normally, I will finish a blog post in an hour – two at most. I started this one at 6 AM this morning.

It is now 6:27 PM.

So, let me just summarize: Yes, there is something currently wrong with me. I am aware of the problem and am screwing up my nerve to talk to someone about potential treatment options.

The logical part of me says this is all due to chemical imbalances in my brain and I have nothing to be ashamed of.

The rest of me wants to apologize to all of you for not being who I think I should be for you.

If you have a loved one who is suffering from depression, please be gentle and patient with them. And encourage them to get some help.

If you are the one suffering along with me – talk to your friends and loved ones. Talk to your doctor. And start taking care of yourself. The way you feel is not your fault, and you are not alone in the world.

Talk to you all again soon.

But Probably Not On A Daily Basis,

  • Jeremy

 

Zen and the Art of Circuit Training

The Art of Circuit Training
At first, it seems so easy.

You join a gym, full of fire and determination. This time is going to be different, you say. You will stay the course, spend hours in the gym every week, and by Summer you will have a physique that will make the Greek Gods weep with envy.

Two months later, you are looking at the clock, comparing it to your day’s schedule, and wincing. Maybe you don’t really have time to go to the gym today…

Thus begins the slow slide into skipped gym visits, dietary shortcuts, and growing malaise. By Memorial Day, you have gained ten pounds and refuse to take your shirt off poolside.

What went wrong? You over-committed and underdelivered. The oldest story in the history of mankind.

So, how about a different approach? It is only April, after all – there is still time to rescue yourself from Summer Body Failure.

Consider, instead, circuit training.

Defining the Circle

Long looked down on by weight-lifting purists, circuit training is slowly gaining a positive reputation. The idea that you can do something positive for yourself with only half an hour invested each day seems too good to be true, yes?

Let me clue you in on a little secret: spending half an hour at the gym (or in any kind of exercise) consistently beats multi-hour workouts that you fail to work into your schedule. Every single time. The #1 key to movement is to keep moving. It is as simple as that.

So, just ignore the powerlifters and the marathon runners for now. All we are trying to do here is build a foundation. Especially us bariatric patients: we have no real idea how to go from being glued to a couch 18 hours a day to spending 18 hours a week at a gym, right? Circuit training is a great step into regular exercise that can actually produce comprehensive results.

So, what the heck is circuit training, anyway?

Performing The Circuit

So, first: there are several kinds of circuit training, including ones that involve working out in your home or office using only your own body weight as resistance. We won’t be tackling those here, but are instead focusing on in-gym, machine-based circuit training. Why? Because bariatric patients (like myself) usually need some additional assistance getting started. This requires a gym membership. Ask your current gym (Or the gyms you are evaluating) about their circuit training availability.

At its most basic level, circuit training (at a gym) involves hitting a series of weight machines in a row, one after another. Between time spent on each machine is a brief rest period, followed by a short period of cardio exercise. The circuit will involve 10 machines, 10 cardio periods, and 20 30-second “rest” periods. When you’ve arrived back at the first machine, you have completed a single “circuit”, in 30 minutes or so.

And, let’s face facts: the person who states they cant carve 60 minutes out of their day (factoring in half an hour getting to and from the gym) to exercise is either lying or needs schedule prioritization help beyond the scope of this article. Cut one hour of television viewing out of your schedule a day and you instantly have enough time to get this done. Surely you can live without viewing the latest reboot of Lost In Space in the name of your health, yes?

So, denials aside, you jump into the “circuit” at an open machine, then follow the circle around for half an hour. Then you grab your gym bag and go home. Do this 2-3 times a week and you’ll see noticeable results within a month. Guaranteed.

So, what’s the catch? (Because there is always a catch.) There are a few ways to sabotage yourself, even with something as simple as following a pre-defined progression.  Let’s look a little deeper, then, into the mechanics of circuit training…

Introduction to Circuit Training

1. Whole Body Focus:

The secret to circuit training is that the “circuit” hits every single major muscle group in your body. The one I currently use (And yes, I do circuit training when pressed for time) goes through the following progression: Seated Leg Press, Leg Extension, Leg Curl, Seated Bench Press, Lat Pulldown, Seated Row, Shoulder Press, Bicep Curl, Tricep Extension, and *Crunch. (More on Crunches later.) This group of exercises touches every major muscle group in your body.

2. Cardio:

Between each machine is a set of steps, designed to keep the heart rate up. There are roughly Umpty-bajillion different ways you could use these steps to maintain a cardio workout. I tend to do a double set of five exercises:

1. Step up then back;

2.Step up, down the other side, then back to my starting position;

3. Step sideways up, down the other side and back to starting position;

4. Step up with one leg, bring opposite knee to chest, then reverse the process starting with the alternate leg;

5. and, finally, calf raises.

There are gyms that, for whatever reason, do not have a set of steps near their circuit training machines. You could substitute cardio exercises like running in place, jumping jacks, good mornings, etc. However, even the most basic of gyms tends to have free-standing cardio steps somewhere. I would recommend grabbing one and setting it up nearby for use while you travel from machine to machine.

3. Rest periods:

Between each machine and step, I get a 30-second rest period. I use this time to drink (Hydrate or die), wipe down the equipment I have been using, and get myself set up for the next exercise.

4. Development:

As with any new exercise, it is important to take your time and get it right. Get a staff member at your gym to walk you through the whole process, on every machine – and get them to help you set your “maximum” weight levels. You’ll be starting your circuit workouts at about 50% of your max, to ensure that you are getting the maximum bang for your buck in the weight vs. reps area.

5. Intensity:

It is important to not spend your time on circuit training simply going through the motions. Instead, be focused during your time on the machines and steps. You should not be struggling with the weights you have selected. You should move each weight outward with a fluid motion, taking about a second to reach nearly full extension. (Full extension can lead to over-stressing ligaments and joints.) At the “top” of your push, squeeze the muscles you are working. Then, slowly lower the weight to the starting position, taking twice as long to lower the weight as you did lifting it. Each rep should take about 3 seconds: a one-second push, a squeeze, then a 2-second return to start. If you find you are unable to finish your minute moving your current weight, drop down to the next weight on your machine. You are wanting to reach the end of your 20-ish reps feeling like resistance is gradually building against your muscles. If you finish your minute easily, make a note, and next time start at the next higher weight – and expect to have to make an adjustment down during your workout.

So, there’s always a downside, right? Here are a few things to watch out for on the negative side of time-saving workouts.

Welcome To The Downside

1. Stabilizers:

The one major negative to working with machines is the very thing that makes them safer to exercise with. An awful lot of the benefit of free weight exercise comes not from the muscle groups being targetted, but instead from the work on the secondary or “stabilizer” muscles that also get engaged just from trying to maintain balance and equilibrium while pushing free weights. The incorporation of these stabilizer muscles is missing from machine-assisted lifting.

2. Intensity:

The fact that circuit training takes place in a closed loop means that much of the thought and planning that would go into a free weight program is missing. This can make it very easy to place your workout on cruise control and simply mail it in. While any movement is still preferable to no movement, your development will be dramatically hindered by not pursuing challenge and development during circuit training.

3. Safety:

Free weight exercise requires constant attention and focus. Circuit training can be perceived as “Easy mode”. Accordingly, it can be very easy to inadvertently injure yourself by simply being inattentive. I have watched people at my local gym use bad form on machines, slip while performing cardio steps, even fall over because they were attempting to talk on the phone or watch streaming video while working out. Circuit training is not the place for these activities.

4. Twerps:

The closest I have come to getting into a fight in a gym since 7th grade P.E. is in and around circuit training equipment. Why? Because so many people insist on using circuit training machines as their own personal playground. Rather than participating in the “circuit” portion of circuit training, many times individuals will camp out on a circuit training machine for their own personal workout routines, rather than using freely available machines elsewhere in the gym. Asking them (politely) to move along so that you can take your turn rarely produces positive results. Instead, bypass their position for now, and come back to it at the end of your routine. Multiple and/or habitual offenders need to be reported to gym management. You are not being paid to enforce the rules of the road in circuit training. Don’t engage testosterone-flooded exercisers yourself. The results can be…less than ideal. Ahem.

5. Crunch Time:

Usually, the final machine in any circuit training circuit is some form of ab-training machine, usually a contraption with straps and weights that ball you up like a device created by the Marquis de Sade. Seriously – crunch machines are a back injury waiting to happen. Skip the ab machine in a circuit entirely, and spend your 60 seconds on a hanging leg lift or (even better) working on Planks. Think you can hold a full Plank for 60 seconds? It is not as easy as it looks. It is also one of the absolute best exercises you can do for your core and abs.

Joining The Circuit

There you have it – the secrets of the Circuit Training section of your local gym. Stop wasting your gym membership money by staying home and watching Roseanne instead of hitting the gym. Get in, push yourself through the circuit, and head back home 3 times a week. Make sure you are taking at least a day off between sessions, mind you.

Once you’ve mastered the Circuit, cough up the funds for an initial appointment with a certified Personal Trainer to keep on moving down the personal fitness road. Just remember: movement is key to success. Even 30 minutes on the Circuit at your nearby gym beats spending an hour on the couch eating Cheetos.

Chasing Myself In A Circle,

Jeremy

Toxic

Toxic

I am trapped in a toxic relationship.

I’ve always thought of myself as pretty strong – able to overcome most things. Hell, I’ve lived with epilepsy for 15 years now, right?

But this particular relationship just keeps coming back and biting me in the ass. Every time I think I have escaped, it reaches out and grabs ahold of me again, drawing me back into its grasp.

The moment I give in I am simultaneously enraptured and ashamed. I know for a fact that what is coming will be humiliating and painful. But, in the name of a few moments of pleasure, I take the plunge anyway.

The really hurtful thing is this – my relationship is literally toxic. I keep poisoning myself and I can’t seem to stop.

Too Close To Home

Less than a quarter mile from our home is a cesspit of sin and amoral license, known as “Sonic Drive-In.”

Oh, they sell things I can eat. Grilled chicken sandwiches and basic burgers I can remove the buns from. They make a decent boneless chicken wing 6-pack if I am in the mood to spread my eating out over a couple of meals.

But that is not where I go wrong.

Every once in a while, about once a month or so, the urge overwhelms me. We go to Sonic, and I buy the most forbidden of fruits:

Ice Cream.

When we pull in, I try to rein myself in. I will get the “Mini” size. My self-directed negotiation makes me promise myself I will split it in half. I will contain my lust for Fudge and Ice Cream whipped together – I will keep myself together.

Ten minutes later, I am looking into an empty small drink cup, wondering where I went wrong. And being tempted to lick the last vestiges of whipped cream off the inside of the cup.

Five minutes after that, I am locked in a bathroom for the next few hours. That’s all the time it takes for me to begin paying the price for my lack of self-control.

The Failure of Negative Reinforcement

A large portion of the early success of any kind of bariatric surgery is negative reinforcement. After surgery, your stomach has been shrunk to such a degree that overeating produces discomfort and, in some cases, outright sickness. For many of us, certain foods are especially difficult to handle – sometimes leafy greens, occasionally tougher proteins, some folks even have difficulty with certain liquids.

But just about all of us can’t handle processed sugar anymore. We even have a specific term for it: “Dumping Syndrome”, categorized by sharp pains, foaming vomit and long-term diarrhea. This is usually enough to encourage us to stay the heck away from foods containing processed sugar.

Usually.

Negative reinforcement does not always work. There is always that one child who doesn’t learn the first time and keeps trying to stick the silverware into the electrical socket.

I am afraid that, in this particular case, that child is me.

Negative reinforcement usually works for me, too. It only took two trips to the hospital to be treated for kidney stones. After the second visit, I started making sure that I get in my 64+ ounces of water a day.

But I just can’t seem to make the ice cream thing stick.

So, every few weeks, I find myself camped out in the bathroom for several hours in a row, wondering why in the hell I keep doing this to myself.

The Tangle In My Brain

Seriously, now: there is absolutely no reason that my body would be craving processed sugar.

I get over 70 grams of protein in every day. That is usually balanced by 60ish grams of carbs. A multi-vitamin takes care of any other missing dietary components.

There is literally nothing in processed sugar that my body needs.

Plus, I can pass up the brownies, the Little Debbie snacks, the Snickers bars. It is simply this one “food” that triggers this reaction in me.

In short, it is all in my head.

Mind you, this is not minimizing the problem. The great majority of our bad dietary decisions are “in our heads”, which is why healthy folks have so much trouble understanding obesity. “Just put down the cheeseburger”, and all that.

Something simply misfires in our brain, and next thing you know we are neck deep in addictive behavior. And yes, Virginia, there is such as thing as psychological addiction. It is not the same as physical dependence/addiction, but it is a real condition just the same.

And food addiction is extremely pervasive among those of us with obesity. So much so that many patients of bariatric surgery turn their food addictions into a different type of addiction: alcohol, gambling, shopping, etc. The surgery that changes our physiology does nothing to change our mental processes.

The Quest for an Ice Cream Cure

I am a fortunate case – I haven’t relapsed into overeating or started drinking Jack Daniels by the gallon.

But I just can’t manage to stop poisoning myself once a month.

Lor has tried to help. Every time I decide to do it, she warns me what is coming. I tell her “I know” and do it anyway. Then, after an hour or two in the bathroom, I invariably ask her “Why did you let me eat that?”

Addictive behavior is rarely fair to loved ones.

It has been suggested to me that I seek professional help. It just seems so overboard to start talking to a counselor because I make myself sick every few weeks.

On the other hand, do I wait until I am doing this to myself once a week?

Accepting failure is hard – especially when it seems so minor. My weight hasn’t changed. My clothes still fit. I am still able to do a host of things that I couldn’t two years ago.

And, yet, still: every time we drive by, I hear Ice Cream calling my name. A sweet siren song, promising moments of pleasure followed by hours of pain.

Maybe We’ll Just Move Next Door To A Salad Bar,

  • Jeremy

18 Months and Counting (A Post-Surgery Progress Report)

A Post-Surgical Progress Report

They say that time flies ever more quickly the older that you get. Even knowing this, I was still startled to look at my calendar and discover that this week will be the 18-month anniversary of my Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy. It is tough to believe that I am already a year and a half out from that amazing life-changing decision.

The changes are still overwhelming: everything from my waistline to my plate size has shrunk. Meanwhile, my stamina, physical activity, and interest in life all have grown by leaps and bounds. I hear on a weekly basis how I am “not the same person” that I was two years ago, and I can only nod in agreement. The version of me that sat around the house exclusively eating and gaming is no longer a part of my life.

The Tech Support Trap

Now, I (still) spend quite a bit of time online, mainly following up on interactions with those who are either considering or struggling with bariatric surgery. And I am noticing a trend towards “horror stories” – people reporting all the terrible things that happened to them as a result of bariatric surgery.

Let me say upfront: bariatric surgery is a scary thing. Things can (and sometimes do) go wrong. It is not a shortcut to weight loss by any means. It is a last-ditch, dramatic solution to chronic obesity.

But, it also must be said: it also is not automatically a disaster waiting to happen. As someone who used to work in tech support, I can tell you this: the vast majority of people posting on forums and in chat rooms are those that something went wrong for. When things work, we rarely feel a need to draw attention to them.

So, allow me to shed a little light on what happens when bariatric surgery goes right.

Shiny, Happy Patient

My personal experience with surgery was almost unblemished. (Other than that unfortunate incident of trying to eat sourdough immediately post-surgery.) I obeyed my nutritional guidelines, paid attention to my surgical team, and embraced my new pre-and post-surgical diet. After all, I figured, I was getting ready to have 3/4 of a major organ lopped off…no point in going forward with that if I wasn’t willing to make all the attendant changes that went along with it, right?

And it worked! Waiting in the pre-surgical area, my surgeon, Dr. Tyner, did not recognize me thanks to the weight loss I had already experienced thanks to the pre-surgical diet. (I had already dropped from 302 pounds to 248 pounds pre-surgery.) The weight loss after the surgery was consistent, and I actually beat my personal goal of weighing less than 200 pounds. By August of 2017, I had lost all the way to 175 pounds: nearly 130 pounds of weight loss.

Not only did I lose weight, but there were other, less visible results. I was able to head back to the gym. We began hiking at least once a week, sometimes more. We walked/ran in the Albuquerque “Run For The Zoo” 5K in May of 2017 – an actual “bucket list” item of mine for decades.

For every negative associated with the surgery (loose skin, yuck!), there has been at least one positive (a 34-inch waistline, like I had in my 20s!) And there have been several positives with no negative whatsoever: for example,  I can now hike 8 miles. And not collapse for days afterward.  This from a guy who, only 2 years ago, could barely walk the dog four-tenths of a mile.

Tough to see the downside to that.

Regular Maintenance Pays Off

So, coming up on two years out, this is where the shine is supposed to start coming off. Many patients complain about creeping weight gain returning at this point in their bariatric journey.

So, just to be sure, I checked this morning: I am currently at 176.3 pounds.

Let me run that by you again: for 6 months now, I have been within a pound or so of 175 pounds. Once a week, every week.

My secret?

Regular maintenance.

You see, this is also the point where many bariatric patients start investigating “When can I…?” As in, “When can I start drinking soft drinks again?” Or “When can I start eating Oreos and Girl Scout Cookies again?” Or, worse yet, “When can I stop working out all the time?”

See, that is the problem with bariatric surgery. Many folks don’t realize that there is no traditional recovery period from bariatric surgery. All the surgery does is “reset” your weight and metabolism so that you can NOW develop the habits you never did before.

If you are wondering about when you can start embracing negative habits again, the correct answer is: you can’t.

Not if you want to maintain your health and your weight loss, anyway.

I know people who have regained about half of the weight they lost after surgery. Because of this, many claim that surgery was a wasted effort for them.

Now, anything that allows you to lose half of your excess weight can’t be a bad thing, in my book. If you lost 100 pounds then regained 50, you’re still 50 pounds healthier by my calculations.

But I personally would rather maintain the lifestyle I learned pre- and post- surgery, and not have to deal with buyer’s remorse.

As the kids on the Internet like to say: Your Mileage May Vary.

A (Small) Example

Yesterday we got together with Lor’s family for a dinner and birthday party for my niece. As we all gathered at the dining room table, I had a chance to reflect on what our lifestyle changes meant.

For dinner, Lor and I spilt a 6-ounce steak. I also added an ounce or so of shredded beef, and 6 or 7 mushroom slices. Since I was feeling saucy, I even added a tablespoon of mashed potatoes in lieu of fresh corn on the cob.

My nephew, seated next to me, took one look at my plate, and asked: “Uncle, how can you live on that?”

I looked past him to the family portrait on my Mother-In-Law’s wall. Taken last Christmas, it featured Lor’s entire half of the family. Standing front and center in the group, I stood. Smiling.

The same person who, until 2 years ago, made every effort to avoid being photographed for any reason whatsoever.

How can I live on it? A heck of a lot better than I used to live on obesity and shame.

Bariatric surgery: it isn’t for everyone, but it sure as heck has done the job for me.

Though I Do Still Miss Girl Scout Cookies,

  • Jeremy

Gamer, Interrupted

Gamer, Interrupted

Blowing the dust off reveals…

A blog! Unused for a month now.

It isn’t that I don’t care about you all. It is that things went absolutely bonkers for the past several weeks.

Since the last time we spoke, my household has been through the following:

  • We went through our first major conference as an author.
  • The foster child that moved in in October moved right back out.
  • We’ve welcomed a new baby into the extended family.
  • An immediate family member has gone through spinal surgery. And is making a rapid and remarkable recovery, I am happy to say.

So, yeah…we’ve been busy.

So, how was the first month of your 2018?

Email Via Snowshovel

Among the (many) things that have suffered from lack of my attention this last month has been my email accounts. I maintain three of them, and they were completely overflowing by the time I got around to digging through them on Monday.

I was able to delete tons of “daily book deals” and “Amazon specials.” Same for “Act today, this price will never come again!” ads. But there were still dozens that required my attention. Messages from friends checking on me. Many writers and writing sites that I follow. A few from Patreon subscribers. And LOTS of fans wanting to know if I have shut down Misdirected permanently. (No, I have not.)

And then came the one that stopped me in my tracks: A “Welcome Back” free 7-day subscription to World of Warcraft.

I flagged it, parked it at the top of my Inbox, and have been ruminating over it ever since.

The Historical Record

If you don’t have a long history here, let me bring you up to speed: Misdirected used to be a gaming site.

Gaming was what I did back in the day. I’ve always been a gamer, but from the point where I developed epilepsy onward gaming was how I spent my time. I invested better than the equivalent of a full-time job every week doing it. First-person shooters, 4X strategy games, MOBAs, role-playing games were all on the menu. If you can name it, I probably played it.

But things shifted two years ago when I began talking, just off the cuff, about my upcoming bariatric surgery. A blog that used to have maybe 1,000 visits a year began seeing that much traffic in a month.  And it just kept growing.

So, I shifted my focus. I began featuring posts talking about the pre- and post-surgical process. I got involved in advocacy for those of us with obesity. I even went so far as to get a Personal Trainer certification so that I wouldn’t be making things up as I went along.

Once my fiction writing took off, it only got weirder. I ended up having to create an entirely different site to keep track of fiction writing. (Which is also currently covered in Internet dust, natch.) My writing about gaming grew more and more distant – a fondly held memory of a simpler time.

The Temptation In The Inbox

But, here’s the thing: I’ve never stopped being a gamer.

I’ve just had to switch to less labor-intensive games. Stuff that isn’t really worth talking about, or sharing online. Just stuff to scratch that itch, as it were.

And, now, this: an invitation to 7 free days with my all-time favorite game. The game I specifically quit playing because of what a massive time-sink it is. Dangling in front of me like forbidden fruit.

See, WoW is one of the few remaining MMOs out there that still charges a monthly subscription fee. And it is so good that millions of people are willing to pony up the $15 every month to play it.

Now, back in the day, Lor and I didn’t have the $30 a month to spend on subscriptions. But, there are ways to actually fund your monthly fee by selling virtual items in-game, and turning them into “Blizzard Tokens”. These tokens can then be used to pay for real-world items like…subscription fees.

I used to spend every month earning next month’s subscriptions before I started “real” gaming. After all, all it took was time. And back in the day, I had plenty of that.

Nowadays? Not so much.

To Game, or Not To Game?

Lor has already given me a very accurate prediction of what will happen if I pop the seal on that 7-day gateway drug:

I will invest 40+ hours in the next seven days earning enough in-game currency to pay for a month’s subscription. Because I love playing with Lor, I will, of course, have to then earn enough for her to re-up as well.

And during that time I might, if I am lucky, get about five hours of writing done.

I am committed to 10,000 words a month for the next 10 months on Executor, the sequel to Inheritance. I also review roughly 40,000 words a month of other’s people’s writing. And I also have to find time to do contract work as well: fiction writing is not yet paying the bills around here.

So, I am committed to roughly 100K words of writing and editing a month. At the pace I write at (roughly 500 words an hour), that works out to 200 hours a month.

And now, on top of that, I am considering adding 40+ hours a week of WoW-ing.

I suppose I could give up things. Like going outdoors. Or eating. Or sleeping.

Or, maybe I just need to quietly, and regretfully, hit the “Delete” button on that shiny email from Blizzard.

So far, I have not been able to do it.

Thrust Upon The Horns Of Indecision,

  • Jeremy