They say life is just a series of moments, compounded on top of each other, and smooshed together in one long (if you’re lucky) montage of good and bad decisions. They also say that your life is your story, that you choose how to write your own chapter in this crazy intergalactic social experiment. Whichever socio-philosophical theory you subscribe to, an undeniable truth is that every so often we all need a hard reset. We all need to restart at the beginning from time to time.
My love of comic books started early, when I was first exposed to the 1978 Christopher Reeve led film adaptation of Superman. That was when I became obsessed with the very concept of superheroes, and realistically who best to start with than the Man of Tomorrow himself? This event triggered my journey into, not only superheroes and comic book collecting, but also storytelling itself. The impact of seeing an outsider, not completely unlike myself, who also faced feelings of loneliness and inadequacy, at times even low self esteem, but still somehow found the strength inside himself to try and help and heal others, to not give in to the darkness but rather to be a source of light that others can cling to from within their own private shadows, resonated with me in a way that honestly set the standard for my world view to this very day.
The mental image of four year old Rob(by), with signature Clark Kent hair curl and red super cape (read: faded magenta bath towel) hanging from his back, flying around the back yard looking for crimes to fight and wrongs to right, is one that I have honestly fought very hard to keep in the back of my mind over the years. I’ve always tried to hold on to that sense of duty to do what’s right, the desire to help others in some way. Like the old Fred Rogers quote: “Look for the helpers.” Well, I always wanted to be a helper. Thus in nearly every friend group or social circle to which I have ever belonged, I have played the role of therapist. I’m the one people naturally vent to. I’m the one people naturally feel comfortable talking to, ever the open ear and heart, in hopes of maybe presenting a solution to their problem. I may not often present sound solutions to these problems, but one thing I can easily offer is a shoulder on which to cry and joke to (hopefully) bring laughter back to someone’s day.
I suppose the point of this post could be easily described as “comic books offer valuable life lessons!”, but if you’ll indulge a deeper dive into that it would reveal the real point of this post: The value of self reinvention. We all do it, we all try and fail at an assortment of resolutions for personal betterment every single January 1st. But it’s not just the annual list of hopes and dreams, it’s not just the promise of a fresh 365 days to reach your personal goals. It’s more than that. There are moments in life, and these moments do not care how close to the beginning of January it may be, where one finds it necessary to start over.
I have had a few of these moments in my life. The biggest and most impactful of these moments being my decision to move from sunny picturesque California to the meteorologically confusing lands of Minnesota, in order to be with my beautiful wife. This has been one of the few decisions in my life about which I have zero regrets. However, there is one decision that has been a struggle and that is the decision to be well. I have struggled with this decision because of years of self sabotage and low self esteem. It’s a record on repeat, a story with no end, a forever war with myself. But I have a feeling, and a hope, that this time I’m going to win.
This past year has been a difficult one, for everyone of course, but I faced not only the pandemic and financial destitution that has caused so much strife for so many, but also an injury with potentially lifelong side effects. The one year anniversary of my comminuted fracture of the spine just recently came and went, to no fanfare of mine, and it has got me thinking. A recent doctor appointment ended with my doctor (one of the good ones), telling me that a key cause of the pain I find myself in, also the yardstick by which we can gauge and treat this pain, is my weight. In this past year, I have fluctuated between weights (up to and including the heaviest I have ever been), and this has been a factor in not only my physical pain, but my mental and emotional stress as well.
When I say “the decision to be well”, I don’t just mean choosing a salad over a burger. It goes well beyond the physical, well beyond simply being in good physical health. I long to be a better person, inside and out, to quell the demons within constantly telling me I’m not good enough. I want a better temperament, I want a calm soul and open mind. It’s time to make a choice. At the above mentioned medical appointment, I learned that I had lost almost twenty pounds since the previous appointment (only a little less than a month prior). I went from 440lbs. to 422lbs. Since this appointment (a little over two weeks ago), I’ve lost another ten pounds (bringing me to 412lbs.) and I already feel the difference.
Pain is still there. Pain will be a close acquaintance for years to come, I’m already aware, but it has certainly lessened since I’ve dropped the weight I have so far. I’m less winded when climbing stairs, able to move better while at work, able to spend more time doing housework per day than before the weight loss. I’m also happier.
Depression is still there. Anxiety is still there. Both are still brewing inside my head like a storm cloud, just waiting for the moment to strike lightning and begin to pour. Neither will ever fully leave me, neither will ever be completely eradicated. The fight continues, but I might stand a better chance if I’m closer to fighting shape. I’ve taken to meditation when alone, whispering various mantras or “words of power” (scoff as you might) when around others. I’ve taken to stepping back from situations and scenarios to which I would normally respond with anger or frustration and trying to see it from a perspective with which I can better cope. Struggles still happen, bad days are still bad days, bad moods are still bad moods, but while one day may see my mood nosediving from the moment I slide out of bed, the next may bring nothing but laughter and warmth. It is because of this, because of the ongoing cyclical nature of life in general, that I have adopted the deceptively simple philosophy of One Day at a Time.
Every time I open my eyes in the morning, it’s a restart. It’s a fresh beginning and a new chance to push forward. If today is a bad day, no worries, another one is coming tomorrow. If I decide I don’t have the mental or emotional fortitude to focus too hard on my food intake for the day, I take the time to treat myself with kindness and try to remember that tomorrow is another day to fight. Since I have adopted this outlook, the decrease in frequency and severity of my panic attacks has been remarkable. I find I’m able to get more done than before, getting out of bed and breaking the cycle of downward spirals has become much easier. Clearing away the funk, made a simpler task than I ever thought possible.
Some of you might read this and think “well yeah, that’s just called life” but this is a new and untested area for me. The thought of not viewing every single day as make or break for my sanity is one I find foreign and terrifying, definitely far beyond my comfort zone. But I’m pressing forward. I’m hitting reset. I’m taking it one step at a time.
Today is day one. Tomorrow will also be day one. From this point forward, my life will be a series of day ones.
I leave you with what I feel is the most apt and fitting quote I can think of regarding this new mind frame, courtesy of Ralph Waldo Emerson: