Déjà vu All Over Again

Me on June 20, 2015
This is the new before. I purposely didn’t weigh myself before these photos were taken.

It seems like we’ve been here before my friends. I know this post may seem eerily familiar to “Starting All Over Again.” A spinal fluid leak tends to temper enthusiasm. Read on intrepid visitors.

In January 2013, I started eating right and exercising. I weighed 236.6 pounds and I endeavored to lose 56.6 pounds and weigh 180. My first goal, 190 pounds, I achieved in 11 months. It took me another year and suffering a stomach virus to lose the rest. I’ve been down as low as 176.6. I’ve tried everything from walking to running and weight lifting. I got to roughly 180 pounds and had no idea what I wanted to do next. I finally decided to drive to my ideal body type.

In the process of doing so I finally thought I figured out the formula. I thought I figured out the correct nutrition and exercise regimen. I was starting to see results. My “skinny fat” properties were starting to be replaced by a leaner, more defined look. I was getting stronger.

Men’s Fitness: “Meaning that while many of us might look svelte from afar or when fully clothed, deep down we suffer from a common male condition known as being skinny fat.”

Amazing how good I feel after a fresh cut.
Amazing how good I feel after a fresh cut.

I had figured out how to get body weight’s worth of protein into my body. I had overcome calf and hamstring injuries, and a few flare ups of a chronic back problem, and had increased my running to close to 20 miles per week.

I was in the middle of Jim Stoppani’s Shortcut to Shred program. I have finished this six-day-a-week, six-week-program once, done four weeks on another occasion and I was determined to get through the whole thing again. On Day 2 of Week 3, it happened. I was way too far forward on the the second rep of a deadlift with 115 pounds on the bar and blew out a disc at L4L5. The herniated disc was on the right side and was sitting on nerve roots and caused all kinds of hate and discontent.

I’m sure this is a rehash for many of my faithful readers but bear with me, I have a point.

A microdiscectomy, six weeks and a lot of comfort food has me on the edge of resuming my regimen. A dural tear caused spinal fluid to pool under my incision. The swelling is finally abating. My surgeon, Captain Chaos (written with much respect and admiration), hasn’t been worried about it and my paranoid ass was calling and pestering his nurses just about every other day.

Sidebar – this is such a compliment – I am a huge Dom Deluise fan and I loved the Cannonball Run movies…

My surgeon bears a striking resemblance to Dom Deluise.
My surgeon bears a striking resemblance to Dom Deluise, only much slimmer.

So, at my six-week follow up with Captain Chaos, we discussed what’s next. I can’t run until July 29, and even then he wants me to take it easy. I can ease back into strength training. I spoke with an athletic trainer friend and I’ll be doing body weight exercises for the first two weeks before I hit the weights.

I’ve reached an impasse, a fork in the road (or a confluence), a real decision point. I’ll be 46 in eight days. I have managed to maintain my weight without any real exercise for the last two and half months. April 7 is when I had the accident. Surgery happened May 6. Here I sit on June 21 sipping Devil’s Cut bourbon, still experiencing some hip soreness and wishing this swelling away wondering what to do next.

That’s not really true. I have already decided what to do. It wasn’t much of a decision. Today is the last day of comfort food. Today is the last day of complacency. Today is the last day of “recovery.” Tomorrow I am back on the wagon. Tomorrow I go back to the high protein, low carb diet with which I was finally having success. I will achieve my ideal. My ideal is a year older than me. I wrote it before, I’ll write it again. I don’t buy genetics. I don’t buy predisposition. I just need to be more careful.

Me on the running/walking trail near work last week.
Me on the running/walking trail near work last week.

As I mentioned, I am almost 46, but in my mind I’m 20. Twenty-year-old me is invincible and can run and jump and lift and do a lot of things 46-year-old me has no business doing. Sit on your ass for the better part of 16 years, have what I consider “fresh legs” and a microdiscectomy is what you get.

I feel like I am starting over. However, the me that I am starting with is better than the me I started with the last time.

One of the things I had to do in my life was eliminate excuses. I don’t have time, I’m too tired, I work too much, my commute is too long, I like food too much…it’s one of the things I hear from people now and I can’t believe I sounded like that. I have adopted #NoExcuses as my mantra, my creedo, whatever you want to call it. I’m just going to be a little smarter about it. I never respected my chronic back problem. Now I have to respect what is going on with my surgically-repaired back. I cannot herniate the disc again. The next surgery will involve rods and screws if I hurt myself again.

Daniel Craig
I will achieve this look. I will do whatever it takes (naturally, of course), but this will be my physique. Tell me I can’t, I dare you. Funny I’ve used this pic and caption before. Déjà vu all over again.

I will achieve what I want. There is no question. There is no doubt. I will do it naturally and with nothing but healthy eating, grit and determination (and a little extra protein, and maybe some creatine).

I could just eat decently and maintain this weight. I am convinced of that. But that’s not the person I have become. Exercise has become such an important part of my life I can’t imagine it without it. The fat needs to go. Muscle will grow.

My surgeon says at three months post op I am full go, no restrictions July 29. I plan on hitting the ground running. One of the worst things anyone can do is to tell me what I can’t do.

Go ahead, tell me I can’t do this. I dare you.

The Silence of Summer

Consider this a follow up to my last entry, Where the Hell is Everyone. I don’t know if it’s because it was 97° today. I don’t know if it’s because all of our houses have central air conditioning. I don’t know if it’s because the people who live in my neighborhood are a little older and a little less active. I don’t know if it’s because there aren’t many children in the area. But there is an eerie quiet over my neighborhood to start this summer. A pall if you will.

I know I reminisce and wax nostalgic from time to time. I know many of my readers are cousins and friends and contemporaries who understand my frame of reference, my scope of knowledge and my sense of fairly recent history. I feel unique in many ways with regard to what I know and remember. I was born in 1969 and I have knowledge and memories of five decades. My long memory serves me well and frustrates me at the same time.

In my last blog, I wrote that my neighborhood seemed empty, lifeless. I realize California is in the middle of a drought. I realize it gets hot where I live. But the quiet…it’s downright weird.

I have spent the better part of the past two weekends in the pool, playing music, drinking, swimming (gingerly) and lounging. Aside from a neighbor child’s birthday party recently, I am seemingly the only person outside. I have been taking advantage of the heat and getting in the pool after work. There’s nary a conversation to be overheard.

Tom Skerritt scaring off birds in Steel Magnolias.
Tom Skerritt scaring off birds in Steel Magnolias.

There has been one exception. Last weekend, Friday and Sunday night to be specific, a neighbor lit firecrackers each night – about three packages of blackjacks if I am not mistaken. Apparently my neighbor decided to go all Steel Magnolias Tom Skerritt and scare off the pigeons that have been roosting in their eaves oh some 23 years since their freaking house was built. So, I went all “get off my lawn” and threatened to call the po-po. The firecrackers stopped. They still have pigeons.

This is the extent of the noise in my neighborhood people. That’s it.

I hate air conditioning. I hate it in the car. I hate it in my house. (I do not like it with a mouse). I prefer fresh air. I don’t like being indoors when the weather is pleasant. I don’t even mind extreme heat. With my back injury and subsequent surgery I can’t run for exercise or else I would be outside a helluva lot more.

This is how we stayed cool in the summer in the 1970s.
This is how we stayed cool in the summer in the 1970s.

When I was a kid, you couldn’t keep us inside. Maybe it is the damn video games after all. We’d be out in the six-foot snowdrifts in our snowmobile suits in the winter and running through the neighbor’s sprinklers in the summer. We’d be in our buddy’s or cousin’s pool, we’d be in my backyard playing basketball, we’d be at the park playing baseball, or we’d be riding our bikes or skateboards. If we weren’t on the porch, we’d be in the backyard and folks would be over for hotdogs, hamburgers and beers. Lawn chairs would be unfolded, ice chests would be full and the sounds of children playing and frisbees filled the air.

Does anyone even do picnics anymore? Or do we Californians go to the beach for these activities?

I just don’t know. Maybe I’m wrapped up in my own little world and don’t notice. If that’s the case, great, if not, there’s nothing I can do to about it.

I know some folks around here throw birthday parties for kids and they get together for local sports team championship viewing parties. But nobody is outside. I don’t get it. I don’t understand.

What used to be routine and commonplace has become occasional and infrequent.

Folks used to wash their cars in the driveway, mow their lawns, sunbathe in the backyard and picnic and barbecue and spend the bulk of their time OUTSIDE. Why have we become a society of shut-ins?

Do I even care? Or are these just nostalgic compare and contrast observations of a man pining for his childhood? Hell if I know at this point. Maybe folks in western New York are different than people in Northern California. I wrote last time that I live in a bedroom community. There’s the irony. “Community.”

There doesn’t seem to be much community anymore. Not even a sense or a hint of community. We wave and say “hi” when we do venture outside. We knock on the door on Halloween for trick ‘r treat with our kids. We’ll go to the occasional summer festival or fair. But I can count on one hand how many neighbors with whom I have broke bread.

Again, people here do go outside. They run or walk their dogs. They get in their cars and trucks and SUVs to engage in commerce or attend church. Hell, we may even go somewhere to vote in an election.

As I mentioned, folks don’t sit out front and talk, and now I realize they don’t hang out in their backyards either. The silence of summer is palpable, save one crazy middle-aged man cranking 80s music and partying in his backyard like it’s 1979.