The Hardest, Most Satisfying Sit-up Of My Life

The Hardest, Most Satisfying Sit-up Of My Life

“The output of energy, nervous and muscular, is enormous.”

– John Steinbeck, Travels With Charlie

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. Whether you want to make more money, spend less money, or conspire to take down an evil demagogue that somehow managed to swindle enough voters and is now going to govern the entire country without any prior political experience, the truth is, only so much is in your control. There are, unfortunately, variables in life that make it impossible to fulfill our New Year’s resolutions (although, if enough of us come together I think we can take down the evil demagogue).

So I don’t know what 2017 will hold. Nobody does. But I try to keep in mind that a year is an intangible thing, and an arbitrary one at that. It is, after all, just a collection of time — 365 groupings of twenty-four hours. And to think that such a collection of time isn’t arbitrary, is to think that D.B. Cooper and the mastermind behind the Kennedy assassination are hanging out on some tropical island right now — it’s a fun thought, but probably not reality. To put a stamp — good or bad — on a group of days is not something I mean to criticize. Instead, I urge everyone not to take that stamp too seriously, especially if it’s a bad stamp. And let’s be honest, 2017 is probably gonna get a big, fat, red stamp. But that’s okay, because it’s just a bunch of days and there will be more to come (assuming no nukes are detonated and global warming doesn’t kill us all).

Ha hmm. Anyway. That being said, I do love a good celebration and I certainly am one for tradition. So if I had to make a New Year’s resolution, it would be to exercise more. Well, okay, given my poor health, exercising is a bad idea. But nonetheless, my goal is to do more sit-ups in 2017. Sit-ups, after all, used to be my job. Before I got sick, I literally dealt with sit-ups for a living. If I wasn’t doing them myself, I was telling someone else how to do them. I’ve done tens of thousands of sit-ups in my life, maybe even hundreds of thousands, if you count every time I’ve gone from supine to sitting or standing. Some have been easy, others have been extremely difficult, but none have been nearly as tough as the sit-ups I’ve been doing recently.

Every few days I shuffle my torso onto a wedge pillow, then another, and then another, until I am at last sitting at a 45-degree angle. For some time I remain there, bolstered by three wedge pillows stacked on top of each other in a scene that can easily be compared to one from Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Princess and the Pea.”

From my elevated position, I push myself up to a full 90-degree angle, which can be tricky if I have a peripheral IV in my arm. And I usually do. My muscles then get weak and my head dizzy as I look around the room for a few seconds, taking in a view that seemed as high as Mount Everest this time last year. That, of course, was when I couldn’t lift my head even an inch in elevation. It is a reminder to me that while things may get better, they certainly don’t get easier.

With trembling muscles and achy joints, I slowly lower myself back down to the stack of wedge pillows and that’s it. That’s my one sit-up for the day, or week, or however long it takes my body to recover and then become antsy enough to do it all over again.

I remember in middle school, when I first started working out consistently, my muscles would tremble and shake as I struggled to do sit-ups. So in some ways I have come full-circle, going from unconditioned teenager to powerful bodybuilder to de-conditioned MECFS patient. I’m not sure what kind of messed up circle that is, but I guess it’s a full one. Anyway. These sit-ups I now do may not be as full-fledged as some that I’ve done in the past, but to me, at this moment in time, they are the hardest and most satisfying sit-ups of my life.

*Hey Everyone! I’m doing a t-shirt and hoodie campaign. Half of the profits go to my ridiculous medical bills and the other half goes to the Blue Ribbon Foundation. PLEASE SHARE!

The National Academy of Fictitious Accomplishments

The National Academy of Fictitious Accomplishments

I’ve had some exciting things come my way recently. Men’s Journal published my essay, “Life Without Sex,” yesterday The Oregonian featured an Op Ed I wrote, and now I’m so incredibly proud to announce that the National Academy of Fictitious Accomplishments (NAFA) has named me The Healthiest Sick Person in America. I must say, after a rough year, receiving this honor was a wonderful way to cap off 2016.

Ah, okay, all joking aside, sometimes it really does feel like I’m the healthiest sick person in America, maybe even the world. By that I mean I still live a healthy lifestyle despite being in poor health, and all things considered, my physical appearance actually looks fairly healthy. As my doctor recently noted, “There’s always a downside to looking healthy when you feel miserable.”
In the last six years I have gone from being one of the healthiest humans on the planet to being one of the sickest. But even if I am the healthiest sick person, that’s hardly something to celebrate. The truth is, nobody wants ownership of anything with the word sick in it. Well, except maybe a sick new car or sick pair of sunglasses. Anyway. The last thing I want to be is the healthiest sick person, or any type of sick person for that matter, but I suppose it’s better than being the sickest sick person.

2015

Sometimes I feel like I have either had the worst possible luck in the last few years, or I live in some alternative reality, an existence stuck in a weird world where healthy people get sick and unhealthy people flourish. It’s a scary thing when everything you know as true, everything ingrained in your mind by science textbooks and fitness literature — eat healthy and exercise then you’ll live better and longer — is suddenly disproved and you feel like the focus of some cruel experiment.

2009

At times I have to remind myself exactly how healthy I used to be. I have, after all, been at the pinnacle of physical performance. I have lifted three times my body weight. I have hiked mountains and pedaled miles. I have sprinted yards and jogged roads. I have flipped tractor tires and pulled weighted sleds. I have eaten bland food and actually enjoyed it. I have whittled down my body fat percentage to single digits. Yes, I have done all this, but I have done so much more. I have been in peak physical condition and felt like a slow death. I have lifted hundreds of pounds with a faltering body. I have taken steps that were almost sure to be my last. I have sat in doctor’s offices full of fellow sufferers hunched over chairs. I have walked around those doctor’s offices — those cathedrals of health — to see boxes of donuts and large bottles of soda on every counter. I have sat in exam rooms while a borderline-obese doctor looked over my seemingly healthy body with skepticism. I have laid in a hospital bed while an undeniably obese nurse hyperventilated over my motionless, yet seemingly healthy body. And finally, I have laid in my own bed sipping some sinister “health tonic,” nearly catatonic and so incredibly sick, while people who could talk on-damand, people not bedridden, vertical people, ate French fries and bacon cheeseburgers in the other room.

2012

This cruel regression of mine, this awful phenomena, is by far my least favorite paradox. Yet everyday I stick to what I know, what I have come to do as habitually as eating — live healthy. I still down a glass of fresh vegetable juice every morning, I still swallow a bevy of supplements throughout the day, and I still drink kombucha and at least half a gallon of water everyday. But every now and then I wonder: what’s the point? Why do I try to live healthy when I remain sick? Why do I try to do anything? Why do I brush my teeth twice a day? Why do I bathe? Why do I shave my face and cut my hair? Why, on earth, do I get dressed each day? After pausing, I always conclude one simple explanation: because I enjoy it.

 

*Happy Holidays to all the lovely people out there. Thanks for supporting me by following this blog and sharing your comments. It means so much to me.