keeping myself alive

Writing and drumming and making things are hooks I hang myself on. These are the things I do. I choose to dangle from their lures. I’m my own bait and, being the narcissistic creature I can’t say I’m not, I will always catch myself. The hunt and its end aren’t always pretty or proper or fruitful, but the blood pattern (art) is always there.

My attachment to art and making is somewhat violent. In the mind. A trot on knife-edge. In my own context only, of course, because my life is pretty great compared to everything, everyone, else, beyond my bubble. My so-called problems are small in the global perspective, and will always be because really, I have no desire for world domination. But I do a lot to keep myself at bay; I’ve learned how to cope with myself.

In the past, I propped myself up with anorexia, and pro-ana imagery and record-keeping, and visceral films like (the original) Oldboy and Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance. I’m not anorexic now, but the possibility of it is never far; sometimes I use it as a threat–against weakness, or lack of control. I don’t doubt that my ability to vice-grip myself is still in here, and if I topple too far, I may just dredge it back up again.

But I didn’t start writing today to talk about anorexia, my constant ghost. I want to write about how I stabilize myself today. In a post a couple weeks ago, Theodora Goss wrote about Staying Healthy as a writer. After reading it, I knew immediately I wanted to react to it with words, because what she said resonated. I figured that, considering how eating and movement and body image and obsession and bull-headedness are all embedded in me forever, considering that I’ve written about anorexia before, about my history with eating in the skin I’m in, maybe it was time I wrote about how I stay healthy now.

First, I need to point out that my relationship with my body and food is, and likely will always be, fucked. Though this is a response to a post called Staying Healthy (a post I love, in case I haven’t said it already), I can’t say my own habits are healthy. I am healthy because of them, and I am–for the most part–comfortable with the structures and rules I’ve made for myself, but the strategies, the constraints, I use are not the best. Then again, I’d probably fall apart with without those bones. I’m feral in those bounds–on my long bikes rides (talking/narrating/burning/panting with myself), in the viscera of my story parts–but surrounding myself with calcified focus is how I survive.

At any rate, it’s better than starvation. And so, this. This is how I cope, as a writer, an artist in general, as a human being.

I think the easiest way to talk about all this is to detail the form of my day. (Note: this is my schedule as of the past three months. Note 2: this schedule will change in a couple weeks, when I start grad school. Maybe I’ll post a re-introspection once things have shifted.)

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MORNING

Usually I’m up at seven. Depends on what time I headed to bed the night before–usually midnight, which means I aim for seven hours of sleep, except on my rest days. On rest days, I sleep till I wake (which typically means I’m up by seven-thirty or eight. What can I say that I haven’t already said? A creature of habit. That’s me). Ultimately, I’d like to always get eight hours a night, but at this point, that’s a pipedream.

I get up, I eat either a slice of soaked (fermented) banana bread (if I’m going on a 20+ mile bike ride) with peanut butter and half a banana, or a piece of this sourdough rye bread (on the days of less extensive exercise). Or some variation of it, plus PB and half a banana.

After eating, exercise. This varies day by day, but my schedule is typically as follows:

  • Sunday: Upper body strength training + some kind of cardio.
  • Monday: Lower body strength training + interval training.
  • Tuesday: Active rest day.
  • Wednesday: Upper body strength training + yoga.
  • Thursday: Long bike ride (20+ miles).
  • Friday: Lower body strength training + interval training.
  • Saturday: Long bike ride (10 to 15-ish miles).

After exercise, more eating–of what I consider to be my breakfast. I have this tendency to mash my food together, so this typically consists of peanut butter, mixed with plain whole milk yoghurt, and sunflower seeds soaked with apple cider vinegar. An apple on the side, or some other fruit–preferably figs, if they’re in season and I’m lucky enough to find them in the 50% off bin at my local market.

MID-MORNING/AFTERNOON

I recently found that I write far faster with pen and paper (2000 words or so in a couple hours, as opposed to struggling all day for a few thousand), so after breakfast, I’ll type up whatever I wrote the previous day.

Then I drum, which consists of speed/muscle memory training, rudiments, learning new songs, and writing for my band. After that, I write half my wordcount-goal for the day (I usually aim for 2000+ in total, per day). Sometimes the drumming happens at night.

Also sometimes, I have lunch. And sometimes not. I’m trying to get better about eating three meals a day, but…it probably only occurs half of the week. It’s a work in progress. On the days I do have lunch, it’s typically protein (cheese, nuts, whatever [usually a combo of animal/biomass-based protein]) + veggies.

At three o’clock, I have a piece of chocolate. Usually it’s homemade (a mashed mixture of bananas, avocado, coconut oil, nuts, and cocoa powder, all poured into a cookie tray, frozen, and cut into daily doses), free of processed sugar, because the only time I eat sugar not in fruit/veggies/etc is on Fridays. (More on this later.)

EVENING/NIGHT

Dinner. Which could be anything, really. One constant: whatever it is, I mix it with greens. Lettuce, kale, spinach, whatever. If it is a leaf, and green, I will chop it and put the rest of my food on top. Basically, my greens are your rice/pasta/whatever you put on or beside your main course. There are good reasons/less good (see: messed up) reasons for this, but suffice to say, this is what I do.

After dinner, maybe a walk. And then more writing/a usually failed attempt to meet my self-assigned wordcount. Sometimes I make it. Sometimes I spend too much time on tumblr/Archive of Our Own and utterly fail. In the end, I can only do what I can do.

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The above varies, of course. Sometimes there are hikes. Sometimes (lots of times) there are shows to go to at night, which usually sees me writing during soundchecks. My eating habits, however, rarely change. My breakfast doesn’t really ever change. Lunch and dinner vary more, but generally, my diet is mostly fruit/vegetables, and protein. I refuse to eat reduced fat products. Almost always whole foods. Minimal processing. Lots of fermented and/or sprouted deliciousness. I don’t eat many grains (nothing against them, I just feel better, less ungainly and bloated, when I stay away), but when I do, they’re almost always lacto-fermented. Or, again, sprouted. Farewell, phytic acid!

The only sugar I eat is the sort that occurs naturally in whole foods (veggies/fruit, mostly), except for Fridays. Fridays are my sugardays. I eat ice-cream. I have honey with my pre-exercise bread, peanut butter, and banana. Plus other, small, things of processed/pure sugar.

And then, sometimes, I break my normalform:

 *Once a month, for one meal, I eat whatever the hel I want as an incentive to cleave to my self-imposed rules. There are more stipulations that accompany this, but I’ll leave it at this for now. Because I tend to repeat myself, the meal usually consists of chocolate-hazelnut granola, dates rolled in oat flour, and some sort of chocolate–all dipped in cashew butter.

Side note: I love the food corralled in my self-imposed rules, so the rules aren’t really synonymous with hardship. Which is probably why my free-meal is really not that different from my usual diet (except the granola).

 *Once a month, restaurant-food. Whatever that may be. Quality and tastiness are really the only requirements.

 *And of course, sometimes, I just break the rules. (Many of you may understand that when I say the rules, I mean me.)

 And…that’s pretty much it. Self-dissection, self-exposure, on display. Nothing more than a chronicle of my daily how-I-stay-alive routine.

Are there better ways to stay alive? Absolutely. Maybe? There’s no perfect way of being; what works best for me, is terrible for you. What’s terrible for me makes you superhuman. Truth: I have this constant urge to just let myself be, to trust my body to know, because on the brain-level, I know my body knows what it needs. But I’ve spent so long telling my body that it doesn’t know, that I know better (question: in this context, who the fuck is I?), that I no longer trust it. I don’t trust myself. I worry that the urge to let go, is just that: the desire to let go, to feast, to embrace excess. (What’s so wrong with that?) But mostly, I think I’m afraid I’ve pushed myself so far out of my context I wouldn’t know what to do to say fuck it all, and eat what/when/as my gut sees fit.

So I wonder: have I lost my instinct, or embraced it? Because I know what I need better than I did in high school. Making myself an exoskeleton to exist in is confining, and yet, it’s my exoskeleton. It fits, and it feels good. In it, I’m strong, and I’m me. It is me. It might be wrong, but so much of me is wrong, so much of everything is, so maybe my structure is healthy, maybe it’s not. All I can do is clench the words of Daniel Gildenlöw, and so many others, between my teeth–I don’t know. I just don’t know–and do my best to survive.