Anyone Else Becoming as Unhinged as I Am Lately?

The past few weeks have seen me having more melodramatic breakdowns than usual, and it’s a problem. One second I’ll be all balanced and happy and zen, and then the next I’ll be spiraling into a black hole of fury: arguing that working forty hours a week is bullshit, telling myself that I’M THE SMARTEST PERSON I KNOW, and randomly IMing my friend Steven with nonstop pictures of Mariah Carey alongside her various love interests throughout the years.

Like, the other day I saw this beautiful passage on Louise L. Hay’s Facebook. Basically it’s all about how if we use a tomato plant as an analogy for creating the lives we want, we can be happy. Because we trust tomato plants to grow, and so when our personal tomato plant starts to sprout, we shouldn’t get angry and ask, “WHY AREN’T YOU BIGGER AND BETTER?” but rather we should keep watering it and say, “Woohoo! It’s on its way!”

I read it and thought, That’s how I’m going to live my life from now on.

Then this IM conversation happened after I randomly went off on a tangent to Steven about how I wish I had a year off to eat, pray, love, and finish the millionth third draft of my book:

  • Steven: i feel like you’re on the verge of a breakdown
  • me: dude it’s true
  • Steven: i can feel it
  • Steven: coming in the air tonight
  • Steven: i FEEL it. when your messages get short and sans caps and punctuation and proper capitalization
  • me: there’s just gotta be more to life
  • me: than chasing down every temporary hiiigh
  • Steven: oh god you’re breaking out the Stacy O
  • Steven: every time you do that, you have a crisis of faith
  • Steven: and then you throw shit and start crying
  • me: and the worst part is that I’m lucky to be employed where I am
  • me: and yet
  • me: WHERE’S THE MEANING?
  • Steven tomorrow you’re gonna be all, “we must reach for the stars with our highest energy and smoke our own poz toxins and look out of our third eyes and be the best versions of ourselves”
  • Steven: followed by quoting some zen writer I’ve never heard of
  • me lmao. true

Later that day…

  • me: the issue is simple
  • me: I just need to hold on through this rough patch
  • me: and continue to strive toward creating the life I want
  • me: I’m just getting so fucking impatient
  • me: like… fucking.. WHEN
  • me: but I mean, I know we mustn’t attack our tomato plants
  • me: WHY AREN’T YOU FUCKING GROWING YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT TOMATO PLANT WORTHLESS FUCKING PIECE OF GARBAGE
  • Steven BAHAHA
  • Steven: I’m dying
  • Steven: I think you need to work toward being your best self
  • me: I’d like to be handed everything on a silver platter
  • me: WHERE’s my platter
  • me: omg I’m a fucking abomination
  • me: that’s negative
  • me: I’m a radiant expression of God’s love
  • Steven: I. Am…Dead

So, I don’t know. I guess the one lesson, if any, I’ve gleaned from this whole thing is that if you’re lucky enough to have a tomato plant, don’t be an asshole. Be grateful. Be graceful. Let it grow. And then go make some marinara sauce, maybe? Or: schizophrenically unravel via IM and then blog about it later. That always works too.

tomatoplant

 

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Dude, Eat Carbs While You’re Out: The Struggle for Body Confidence

Editor’s Note: After three years in the game, this is my 100th blog post! To honor the occasion, I’m stepping outside my comfort zone of humor and posting a thoughtful essay on body image. I’m also doing this because I skipped the gym twice this week and I’m pissed at myself for being pissed at myself about it, which sounds redundant because it is.

A few years ago I had a boyfriend – let’s call him Lionel – who accused me of being unfaithful. I wasn’t, but our relationship was in the process of unraveling and I had more or less withdrawn from him at that point, so I can’t say I was surprised by his bout of paranoia.

One day it led him to Facebook-message my ex-boyfriend.

“When you and Nic were together,” Lionel asked, “did you ever suspect he was cheating on you?”

My ex replied, “Nic? LOL.”

I’m able to quote directly because I uncovered the message history on Lionel’s computer one weekend while he was away for his army reserve duties and I was staying at his apartment. By then Lionel had already caved into his guilt and told me about the exchange himself, so these initial findings were more or less expected.

But then there was something else.

“By the way,” Lionel wrote right before signing off. “Nic is in really great shape these days.

“He’s super toned.

“Hot.”

I felt like he was insecure for me.

Throughout the course of our relationship, Lionel had always answered my habitual laments of, “Ugh, I feel really fat,” with military-inspired suggestions as to how to get in better shape. “So you agree?” I’d usually snap back, channeling my inner Regina George. “You think I’m really fat?”

I was 6’3” and weighed 170 pounds – thin – but that didn’t change the fact that I had some flab on me where there could have been muscle.

“Shut up,” he’d laugh. “You know I love your body the way it is. I’m just saying that if you want to tone up, I can help you.”

I eventually accepted the offer.

I love your body the way it is. I had always believed Lionel when he said this, but his comment to my ex-boyfriend that day suggested that perhaps he loved it more after I adopted his pushup routine. I mean, the proof was in the transcript. “Ha! You had soft-bodied Nic,” he might as well have declared. “But my Nic is better. My Nic is the one worth having.”

Of course. The One Worth Having: In really great shape these days.

Super toned.

Hot.

***

I’d always known men could be shallow.

When I was eight and nine years old, a few members of my dad’s old-school Italian family violently chucked fat slurs at my mom like jagged rocks at an innocent duck after she filed for divorce from him. “That fat bitch,” I heard them say to each other. “You fat bitch,” I heard them say to her face. “You’re divorcing him?”

Sometimes I wondered how much more diplomatic their divorce could have been if she had just dropped twenty pounds before filing.

It wouldn’t be too long before my friends expressed similar attitudes, openly discussing how they could never even think about being attracted to “fat chicks.” This sentiment pervaded my small hometown. I remember being at a friend’s house one day after school and getting caught up in a conversation about baseball cards or some shit when we accidentally left the television on whatever station aired the Rosie O’Donnell Show. His dad got home from work a few minutes later and asked, “What are you guys watching this cow for?”

I was a significantly overweight kid myself while all of this was going down, so I took everything a little more personally than I probably should have.

But! I’d tell myself. This is a female problem. Sure, some kids teased me for my weight, but the teasing never suggested that my fatness made me unlovable. When it came to love, it was always the men who didn’t want their women to be fat. Overweight guys got beautiful girls to marry them all the time; they just had to endure being jocularly called a fatass by their friends sometimes.

I’m ashamed to say that this fucked up, misogynistic double standard actually gave me comfort for a few years of my adolescence.

That is, until I’d remember that I was gay. Until I’d remember that I, too, would eventually have to possess a body worthy of male desire.

***

“I’m finally starting to realize that a good ninety percent of my insecurities stem back to my being a fat kid,” I lamented to my mom over the phone earlier this week. “And I’m so sick. I’m so sick of reflexively sucking my stomach in when I look in the mirror. And I’m so sick of hating myself on the days when I skip the gym. I’m so fucking sick of having to give a shit about any of this.”

“Believe me, Nic,” she said. “I get it.”

The craziest thing? I’m in really great shape these days. Super toned. Hot. People tell me all the time. Co-workers tell me after I casually turn down the birthday cake. Friends tell me after I yell, “If I have a double chin, we’re deleting this!” when we pose for group pics. My mom tells me when I call her on the phone having typical emotional upsets like the one referenced above.

People tell me I’m too skinny. In text messages and voicemails and Instagram comments.

starvingEat carbs while you’re out. Statements like these shouldn’t feel like compliments, except they do. The validation swoops me up and flies me around for maybe a good three seconds, but then it lets go just as quickly, flinging me down into a pit where the words GET YOUR ASS BACK TO THE GYM are etched into the surrounding dirt.

If the validation is coming from a man with whom I’m sleeping, maybe the high lasts closer to six seconds. But, oh. Since Lionel and I broke up, I can’t even tell you the number of dudes I’ve gone home with only to soberly decide in the eleventh hour that we can’t go through with hooking up because I don’t feel comfortable getting undressed with someone new and contorting into sexual positions that I know would make my stomach look – oh, my God – not flat.

When I do allow myself to go there with guys, I avoid bringing up the subject of fatness altogether out of fear that if they knew how much I really cared – how anxious and conscious and aware I can sometimes be of my body – they’d scrutinize it that much more.

Plus these aren’t just any men I’m dealing with – these are men like me.

***

Insecurities make no sense, and yet they do. Depending on your mood and vantage point they can either be silly little clowns or great, intimidating monsters. Sometimes both.

Most days I’m able to just point and laugh at how utterly absurd and hilarious my fat issues are, acknowledging all the bullshit that called them into existence in the first place and saying to myself, Wow. I’m so glad none of this shit actually matters in the end.

But then catch me on a shitty day and I’m capable of breaking down under the weight of it all – sometimes even to the point of calling my mom in tears and/or writing self-pitying personal essays about the Struggle for Body Confidence.

Of course I’ve perused enough self-help to know that everything is just a choice. At any moment we can choose to stop caring about other peoples’ perceptions and start loving our bodies as they are. Right. Fucking. Now. We can claim our power. We can strip ourselves of our clothes – whatever their sizes – and stand proudly, flipping off anyone who’s ever made us feel like the shapes of our stomachs have anything at all to do with the worthiness of our spirits. We can stop letting wounds get in the way.

On my best days, I’m actually capable of this.

Because deep down I know I’m worthy and important and loved. Because I know I’m talented and empathetic and smart. Because I know just how much more than a body I am.

But also — and it fucking kills me to say this — because I’m in really great shape these days.

Super toned.

Hot.

 

Five Ways to Stay Zen When Life Seems to be a Total Dick

Lately, as a result of reading Eckhart Tolle’s book A New Earth, I’ve been really chill about everything in life.

My unprecedentedly Zen demeanor has the people around me kind of shocked.

“Wait,” they say after my bagel order is fucked up and I don’t shriek and/or fall out of my chair in a fit of hysterics, “you’re really not going to have a melodramatic breakdown over this?”

No, I will no longer unravel over bagels, because what are bagels anyways? They’re merely collections of molecules and energy – they’re form, and form never stays the same, and so trying to control or identify with form on any level (especially on the bagel level) is just silly.

But of course most of us are ruled by our egos (in other words, our thoughts), and it’s our egos that wholly identify with form – not just bagels, but our bodies, possessions, and even the thoughts themselves are a form (of energy) – and so THIS is why many of us are assholes. Because we’re trying to control circumstances and build our entire identities on shit that isn’t actually real or permanent.

So when we step back and become aware that the part of us that’s upset is often just a thought and isn’t truly who we are, we can watch as our egos go all “OMG this bagel was supposed to make all my problems go away and now it’s not even the right bagel!” and just laugh at the fact that our egos are big fucking babies.

This is the general approach I’ve been applying to all aspects of life lately, and it’s resulted in quite the shift.

And so here are five responses (all inspired by A New Earth) to common issues to help you remember that nothing in the material world is worth stressing out over. Ever.

(Note: If I sound like an asshole in any of these, it’s because I’m mostly talking to myself.)

1. Oh, that e-mail pissed you off? Well, how about the fact that if there was no electricity in the first place then your computer and/or smartphone would merely be a shitty piece of plastic and metal that takes up space, and so are you really going to allow a shitty piece of plastic and metal that takes up space to fuck with your energy like that? Plus, whoever it was who sent the annoying e-mail probably sent it from the same ego-based place in them that is now flaring up in you and getting all pissed off over a SHITTY PIECE OF PLASTIC AND METAL, so CHILL. (Love you.)

2. That guy doesn’t like you back. Hmmm… and what, exactly, is it about this guy’s perception of you that matters, like, at all? Are you going to be upset over the fact that someone else’s mental image of you isn’t one of total adoration and worship? I mean, even if this guy believed in his heart that you were gross and unlovable and Shrek-esque, what would that really mean? And if he believed that you were hot and brilliant and perfect, what would that really mean? Either way, you are who you are. The reality of the present moment is never going to be any different because of one fucking dude’s thought of who you are.

2a. Wow. Isn’t that shit freeing?

IMG_20140402_072402

3. Your train is late. Unless you plan on becoming a sorcerer of trains and personally controlling all the trains in all the land and putting an end to train delays for the rest of forever, getting angry over this could be a waste of energy. Maybe.

4. You’re 26 and haven’t yet reached any of your major life goals. Okay, so our society is all about ambition! And hard work! And life milestones! And accomplishments! And other shit. Great shit, sure. But there’s plenty of misery in identifying entirely with shit – even if it is great. And yet defining ourselves by our accomplishments is exactly what many of us are programmed to do – we compare ourselves to each other (#Facebook) relentlessly. We calculate our importance, worth, and lovability based on superficial things like job titles, homes, cars, clothes, lifestyles, whatever. But at the end of the day (when we’re all dead, for instance), what REALLY matters? Our external qualities (AKA form)? Or those parts of us that were never identified with form to begin with (AKA our simply Being and connecting and loving)?

5. They fucked up your bagel order. See: the beginning of this post.

 

Proven: Hurt People Hurt People

Once upon a time, an ex-boyfriend of mine told me that he loved me with all of his heart. Then he told me that no matter how much I loved him back, it would never be enough to constitute a truly healthy relationship. Because I’m just not me without my chronic discontent towards love – whether in or out of it.

I know, right?

To be fair, this happened during a fight. And I believe his actual words were, “Love is wasted on you because you’ll never let yourself be happy,” but I like mine more.

I had all but forgotten about this statement since we broke up almost three years ago – but over the past few weeks it has returned to the surface of my consciousness. And my actions keep giving it credence. And it’s pissing me off because it took me this long to realize that maybe he was right.

It would explain:

  1. why Keychanges is at its best when I’m complaining about how much it sucks being a single gay man searching for true love, but only encountering noncommittal jerks who’d prefer our relationship exist only in the bedroom; and
  2. why I broke up with a near-perfect guy last week after three months of him being the single gay man searching for true love, and me being the noncommittal jerk who’d prefer our relationship exist only in the bedroom.

I can already hear my best friends saying, “You just always want what you can’t have,” and I can already hear a therapist saying, “You have to love yourself first before you can truly love someone else,” – but dammit, it is so frustrating to know that all of my complex emotional issues can be boiled down into cliché phrases directed at issues that millions of people have already struggled with.

Why do I have to consciously love myself? Can’t I just take an alternate route to happiness? Such as finding that one man that’s going to make all of my problems go away?

That would be ideal.

But no, I have to be one of those people that can’t just let life happen without overanalyzing every errant thought and emotion of mine until I’ve effectively killed whatever magic had once existed between myself and any man I’ve ever been with. Or until they end up thinking I’m crazy and/or a waste of love.

Or, as with Awesome Guy, until I end up hurting them.

It’s never a winning scenario.

Prior to breaking up with Awesome Guy, I spent a Saturday with the above-referenced ex-boyfriend of mine – purely because I couldn’t get his three-year-old words out of my head and I wanted to confront them head on.

Sadly though, I couldn’t find the right time to bring it up. Because really, when you’re catching up with an ex, there is no right time to casually interject with, “So, remember that night back in January of 2010 when we were fighting in your Ford Explorer and you said that love is wasted on me because I’ll never let myself be happy?”

I’m sure he doesn’t remember anyways – those words were just casually flung my way in the midst of a single fight in the vast array of epic battles that defined our yearlong relationship.

Although we didn’t address the statement in question, seeing my ex again did make me remember all kinds of details from our time together that I had mostly forgotten about — such as how I picked fights all the time, made the entire relationship revolve around me rather than us, and overall, just didn’t know how to be a truly great boyfriend.

As I was leaving his house, he told me, “I want you to know that no matter what’s happened between us, a part of me will still always love you.”

And all I could think to myself was: What a waste.

And that’s when I knew I had to break things off with Mr. Awesome.

P.S. This post was a little too heavy and lugubrious (and/or I-will-probably-think-it-was-insanely-melodramatic-and-unnecessary-in-about-twelve-hours) for my liking. I apologize. But I feel like I really hurt an awesome guy’s feelings last week, and I wanted to explain myself (to the world, apparently). Because I really cared about him and I still feel bad.

P.P.S. I am slowly working on my issues. And it’s going pretty well. Except for those times when I want to jump in the faces of happily married couples and scream, “Did you both examine all of your emotional baggage and deep-rooted insecurities before getting married? NO? Then why the hell do I have to?! IT’S NOT FAIR AND PLEASE LET ME TRADE LIVES WITH YOU!”

I’m hoping those occasions become rarer with time. And therapy.

 

I Broke My Own Rule and Brought My Self-Esteem Issues to a Football Game

Here is a (truncated, punctuated, and spell-corrected version of a) text message conversation that took place between my brother’s girlfriend and me at the Patriots game on Sunday:

  • Nic: Your boyfriend is such a gentleman.
  • Brother’s Girlfriend: Are you sure you’re referring to the right person?
  • Nic: Some girl in the row behind us is touching his head and he keeps angrily telling her to stop. Pretty romantic, I think. Meanwhile I keep secretly wishing she would touch my head.
  • Nic: Just for the validation of someone finding me desirable.
  • Nic: But NOOO, she touches my uncle’s head before she touches mine! I’m fat and ugly.
  • BGF: Haha, who is this girl touching everyone?!
  • BGF: Everyone but you.*
  • Nic: IDK! She just touched my dad’s head.
  • BGF: So even if she touches your head now, at this point it would just be an afterthought.
  • Nic: I’m the fattest person ever.
  • BGF: No way dude!
  • BGF: Clearly she’s drunk and thinks she already touched your head.
  • Nic: You’re right, maybe that’s it! Or maybe she’s afraid to touch my head because she secretly likes me the most.
  • Nic: Or maybe I’m delusional.
  • BGF: No. She’s in love with you and doesn’t want to ruin her chances by treating you like all the others.
  • Nic: I feel a little better now.

And then I got distracted because there was a football game happening in front of me. And then Gronkowski broke his arm and I internally cried like a baby over my team losing the best tight end in the league for essentially the rest of the season. And then I cried even more over the fact that I was rejected by a drunk, head-touching woman. And then the drunk, head-touching woman FINALLY touched my head, and I was dismayed to learn (yet again) that a slight expression of validation didn’t solve all of my problems.

                                        This is kind of the best place ever.

And I’ve now written yet another blog post that highlights my extreme need for therapy. I’m thinking that for my first session, I should just print out every post I’ve ever written, hand them to the therapist in a neat stack and say, “Please read these and fix me.”

P.S. I am fully aware that my whole being gay thing should have eliminated any interest or concern with the drunk, head-touching woman whatsoever — but this post clearly proves that low self-esteem knows no gender.

P.P.S. I’m currently writing this blog from the Metro North train, and I just made the BIGGEST SCENE EVER because I thought I saw a cockroach creeping around near my foot. I screamed, and people turned around to find me with my legs entirely in the air. All the while, I was wondering what kind of a weird breed of cockroach this was because it appeared to be silver and kind of shiny. I started imagining that if I were lucky enough to be able to get to work alive and Google “silver cockroach,” I’d discover some kind of crazy, poisonous, bacteria-spreading death insect that everyone but me knew about. Then I looked closer and realized it was just a nickel that had somehow rolled in my direction, so I exhaled – though my relief was severely tainted by the fact that I’m now hallucinating on trains. Check, please.

 

Facebook Promotes Obesity, and I Don’t Appreciate It

I woke up this morning and realized that there exists a very unfortunate correlation between my eating habits and the marital statuses of my Facebook friends.

It kind of goes like this:

  • Engaged friends: sugary cereal with whole milk.
  • Married friends: burrito bowl from Chipotle.
  • Friends who just got engaged this week: entire box of Oreos.
  • Friends who just got married this week: multiple pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, various flavors.
  • Friends who just got married this week and have already posted photos from the wedding: all of the above.
  • Ex-boyfriends who are now in relationships: all of the above plus a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese, loaf of cinnamon swirl bread, entire tube of unbaked cookie dough, and the salt of my tears.

Thanks for the double chin, Zuckerberg.

Side note: I am still seeing [Awesome Guy Who Still Needs a Proper Fake Blog-Name] and he’s still awesome. But – contrary to what I’d secretly hoped – this post seems to suggest that his presence in my life hasn’t obviated my extreme need for therapy, so I guess I’ll have to get on that soon.

         Totally unrelated: My mom’s dog in his new winter coat. You’re Welcome.

 

Happy Friday!

 

The Restorative Power of Mountains, Oktoberfest, and Lots of Garlic

So, the past few weeks have not been ideal.

I stopped dating (and consequently, blogging), the Pats lost for two weeks in a row, and I had to deal with some other life drama that is totally blog-inappropriate (although, my definition of blog-appropriate includes some pretty questionable things — so there’s a good chance that my other life drama is actually totally apropos by normal-people standards).

In light of the above, I decided to drop everything on Friday and spontaneously join two of my best friends on a trip up to the Catskills for a long weekend of nature, Oktoberfest, and garlic — three of my favorite (totally non-questionable) things.

It was awesome and pretty much fixed my life.

Our first morning there, we engaged in an rousing session of moving wood from a big pile in the yard to a neatly organized stack on the side of a shed.

                                                      Bringing lanky back.

Yeah, I’m basically a glumberjack. (That means “gay lumberjack,” for those of you who don’t spend much time in glumberyards.)

…Or maybe I’m just Big Ang. (This is what happens when I obnoxiously try to display my buff chest while my friend struggles to take a picture that actually includes my face.)

Later that day, we encountered a random group of horses quietly standing still in the middle of a circle.

I know, right? It was weird to me too.

                     “Oh, don’t mind us. We’re just chillin’ with our saddles on.”

Naturally, I felt compelled to loudly declare, “THOSE ARE NOT REAL HORSES!” So I did.

And then my friends looked at me like I was the weird one. And then the horses moved and I stood corrected. And then I tried to explain to my friends that those horses were freakin’ bizarre — because a brilliant Mariah Carey music video from 1997 taught me that real horses, when left to their own devices, like to run wild and free with abandon into the sun.

And then they looked at me like I was weird again, and I was like, “Listen, y’all, if we weren’t in the mountains right now and had cell service, I’d settle this immediately by YouTubing ‘Butterfly’ and this whole argument would be moot.”

And then we all stopped caring about horses because we realized it was time for Oktoberfest.

After a glorious afternoon of beer and German food, we decided that the best way to end the day would be with some good old fashioned cigars while overlooking the mountains from the house we were staying in.

           Gangsta. (Or just nerdy gay man with a cigar and a chalice. Either one.)

For some reason (and by that I mean, “probably because of all the beer”), I felt compelled to try to be a tough guy and inhale all of my cigar smoke for the first time ever. So I did.

And then I proceeded to throw up three times.

Frazzled, I thought I was dying and promptly took to Google while my friends watched A Time to Kill starring Matthew McConaughey and Sandra Bullock and insisted that I was just having a bad reaction to the fact that I inhaled an entire cigar.

Thankfully, Google agreed with my friends. Turns out that inhaling cigar smoke is totally okay if you’re a chain-smoking professional. If you’re a glumberjack who only smokes on special occasions such as Oktoberfest, New Year’s Eve, and Carrie Underwood album release days, then you should avoid it at all costs. (You’re welcome for the warning, glumberjacks.)

By the way, did I mention that there was lots of foliage already and I freakin’ love being in nature?

                                         Fresh mountain air heals everything.

Our final day in the mountains involved hitting up my first-ever garlic festival. And it was heaven.

Turns out I’m a big fan of garlic burgers, garlic fries, garlic pancakes, garlic ice cream in garlic waffle cones, garlic sausage, and (non-garlic) bottled water.

At the end of it all, I feel like the trip (combined with Sunday’s incredible Pats win) really put life back into perspective.

And I didn’t even have to watch Titanic this time!

But I did have to move some wood, throw up a little, and eat probably nineteen cloves of garlic.

Totally worth it.

 

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