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Life Play

Cripplings

On injuries physical and metaphysical, and the delusions woven by experience and the desire for approval.

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Achilles

A beautiful Saturday, fresh air, fresh coffee, fresh doggy. Outdoor gym. Let’s show I can do a pull-up or three. Let’s mess up the landing and end up in the ER with an injured achilles tendon. Let’s wear a splint for four weeks, then we’ll do an MRI and see if we’ll need some surgery.

When I was a weak month short of four years old my thigh bone broke in a freak sledding accident on a little hump of hill behind our apartment building. Spiral fracture. Months of recovery. Ever since, small injuries and difficulties have spiralled out of that accident. Bent spine, uneven leg bones, odd pressures, ankle and knee injuries.

I’d never really thought about it much, but now that I walk my dog every day—or did until the accident—I’ve realized that I’ve had a lot of leg injuries. A lot of mobility issues, so to speak.

That year someone kicked my achilles during “warm-up football” at the fencing club. Nine months I couldn’t run. Folks, don’t use football for warmup.

The pebble while I trained for a 12k run. Five months no running.

Two years ago, the step outside the cafe. Eight months of pain.

I thought I’d become more careful.

And here I am, crippled. Hobbling on crutches as I watch a beautiful spring simmer into summer. Worried. Something’s off, one muscle simply doesn’t flex. Uncomfortable. It’s getting warm in the splint. Cabin fevered. Can’t even walk the dog properly. Does she resent me?

17 more days.

Then, if / when surgery. Two more weeks with a splint. Then six weeks of rehab.

So, three months. Again.

Doc says I could wait with the surgery, do it after summer. So a summer of walking all careful like.

Gods, I want to rage against this machine.

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Sit Up

Wobble to the corner, pick up the yoga map. Unfurl, sit, careful like.

Turn on a docu, strip of the shirt.

Up, down, up, down.

Benthic marine life. Methane vents.

Turn over, push op, plank, stretch.

Turn over, sit up, boat, stretch.

Repeat. Finish the docu.

Keep the cabin fever away for another few hours.

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Elden Ring

It’s a pretty game, but I don’t like all the fighting and I wish all the characters weren’t so creepy and undead. I’d like to just wander around and play with rolling rams and giant gerbiloids.

I suspect I won’t finish it.

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Delusions of a Stomach

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Part 1: Sit-Up Situation

Recently. Days before the accident? After?

Sit up to boat pose.

I look at my stomach.

Folded, bunched, tensed.

Realization. I’ve hated my stomach for over a quarter century.

Realization 2. My god, that’s dumb.

Something releases.

Realization 3. Huh. I suddenly have more energy to hold the boat pose.

Realization 4. Oh, goddamn it. All these years I’ve spent all this energy hating my stomach and had none left over for actually doing a sit-up.

Every time I would do any exercises that engaged my stomach muscles, my brain would replay the loop. Too fat, too soft, too flabby, too disgusting. And, in some sort of weird homeostatic feedback, my stomach muscles picked up on those emotions and tried to be as unobtrusive as possible. Keep the energy low, redirect it away.

It was like removing a block, suddenly I could use my stomach.

I went to look at myself in the mirror, and I realized that while I don’t look “chiselled” or “stripped”, there’s no objective measure by which I could consider myself—or my stomach—fat. I flex, muscles and tendons visibly shift under veins and skin.

Mind _saw_ body differently. Interpreted same visual stimuli differently than half an hour before.

Now, I’ve lost some weight recently, but not that much. Years ago, right after university, when I exercised much more, watched my food much more, and felt much, much more fat … I was about 5 kilos thinner than now.

I flex again and think to myself, “this is crazy.”

I look at my legs. I’d always worried about my fat thighs. Sartorius, vastus, knobs, tendons. Only a completely delusional person would look at my legs and think, “fat.”

I whispered to myself, “I was delusional.”

=|=

Part 2: Benchie selfie

I go out with the dog. She needs to pee. Hobble-wobble to the nearest bench.

Go on, puppy, use the grass.

What? It’s not proper toilet grass?

Ok, a bit more stumbling, her business then back to the bench.

Come on, doge, hop on. Let’s take a selfie and send it to the loved ones.

Click.

Look at the photo.

My arms look … sinewy and hairy. I understand the hairy part, the jpeg algo in the phone likes to over-emphasize fur. The dog looks luxurious, and I look … dark and mysterious for a certain definition of dark. I really should shave. Wait, dial back. Sinewy. That’s not the algo.

Yesterday the stomach thing, now this.

The brain, the mind, is reading the visual input how the body looks, differently.

Question arises: “Why was I delusional in how I viewed myself for a quarter century? Why did I see myself as fat? Why did I hate body parts that had not hurt me in any way?”

Of course, any answer is just a narrative post-fact. A story-truth to navigate by going forward.

I don’t need an answer, but I like to write stories. Wait, that’s wrong. I need to … no, not quite it. My brain automatically writes stories. It writes stories to understand itself-in-the-world, and it was/is writing a story of the self-in-the-world to explain why I had been walking around with a delusion filter between myself and myself, between “perception” and “body”.

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Part 3: Father’s Diets

Such a cliché, but it snaps into place.

From earliest childhood memories, Father struggled with his weight. The rituals of scale and pressure and blood sugar. A Newsweek cover of an Uncle Sam with an inflated belly on the bathroom door, and over it the graph of Father’s body weight. By day, accurate to 0.1 kilo. Every day, without cease. Three weeks of diet, graph dropping, three days of feasting, graph spiking.

Blaming Mother for cooking too much, but demanding each meal have a starter and a main dish and a salad and maybe a dessert and usually a glass or two of wine and then a cigar after.

“Look, there’s two pieces of meat left! We can’t let it go to waste.”

Then a diet again. One, then another. With every new diet, reminders, “watch your weight, watch what you eat, look how disciplined I am, look how I am losing weight, you should join me on the diet, you’re also getting chubby.”

Vegetable soup diet. Intermittent fasting. Paleo diet. Vegetarian diet. Meat diet. Three-week fast. Morning hikes. Tempo, tempo, keep the pressure up.

Success.

“Look, look how much weight I’ve lost! You should also go on a diet, like I did.”

Then the banquets and the parties again. Wine and cognac, potica and schnapps, five different hams, four different cheeses, a baguette for dinner. Delicatessen deliverance.

Add another sheet of graph paper. Right and slightly above inflated Uncle Sam and the line goes up again.

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Part 4: Identification

When I drew my first comic aged 5, Father didn’t understand and didn’t compliment me.

At age eight Father signed me up for Saturday German classes at the Goethe Institute in Dar es Salaam. Drove me in the morning to a drab building. I remember dark tubular metal frame chairs and tables with stained wooden tops and seats. Outside, sunlight and the weekend. Inside, flickering neon lights and trapped der, die, das. I didn’t want to go and quit after two weeks. I wanted my weekends back, the sun, the beach, the family.

Father, “I don’t understand why my son doesn’t like learning. When I was eight, if I had the chance to study a foreign language on Saturday, I would have leapt at it.”

Disappointed Father.

Father never comprehended how anyone could like something that he did not like, and how anyone could not like something that he liked.

Why? I can guess, but not relevant here, now.

As a boy, as a young man, I wanted so much for Father to be proud of me—and to tell me he was proud of me. But the only times Father told me I did something well was when I did something he would have wanted to do himself.

His “Mini-Me” Father could see, but me not so much.

So I mirrored and built a framework for understanding the world where I saw myself as though I was a copy of Father, so that I could make him proud of me.

And that’s why, when I saw my stomach, I saw Father’s round belly as he leaned forward to peer over it and read the numbers off the dial on the scale.

When I saw myself in the mirror, I saw myself as though I was trying to be Father seeing himself, so that I would better read Father’s mind and figure out how to make myself good enough to receive his praise.

Gah!

=|=

Part 5: More Sit-Ups

I don’t feel anger or regret or shame or guilt.

I feel disbelief.

The delusion worked like a perfect overlay of the sensory input coming into my brain. Every time mind interpreted information on body, it translated it to the model of Father. Overweight, overburdened. There was no gap. A perfect alienation.

Then, when the delusion broke, it was like removing a pair of yellow sunglasses and suddenly seeing the sky blue all at once.

How do I know I don’t have other delusions? I don’t.

The totality of the delusion is profoundly uncanny. Like the a mooring of reality anchored within myself suddenly shifted and showed itself for a transient representation rather than some fixed point.

Still, being rid of this one, is good.

Can’t do many exercises with my leg in a splint, but I can do sit-ups.

Up, down, up, down.

Keep the cabin fever away for another few hours.

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Reminder
90+ Days of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

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And if you’re actively supporting Russia: shame. Shame.

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