When I started this blog, I vowed to work on three areas of my life: my physical health, my relationships, and my writing career. I called this my “man in progress” series. Eventually that series just became integrated into my blog.
Today for the blogs last chapter, I’d like us to review these three aspects of my life and share with you what I learned with each.
For eight years on this blog we’ve talked a lot about physical health, diet, rest and how taking care of our bodies can help us be more creative and live a better life.
Today, I’d like to discuss what we’ve learned over the years about our bodies, how to listen to them, and how to take better care of them.
The Body Politic
There is nothing more sensitive (other than politics and religion) than the topic of body image and food in this country.
People are incredibly touchy when it comes to their food. As they should be.
We are talking about the very thing that keeps us alive: the energy we consume that keeps us going.
I learned from eating healthier, to going vegetarian, to going vegan, to becoming an omnivore again that the body will crave what it craves and it will cosume what it needs at the right time in your life.
Your body is more perfect than it seems, and the more we listen to it, the more it will tell us how to take care of us.
Over the years, I have learned that I can push the limits of my diet to places I never imagined I can go, but I also learned that my body has its limits, and at a certain point, I have had to revert to being an omnivore not due to a lapse of morality, but due to sheer gravity. I just couldn’t take being a vegan anymore.
Run, Fat Boy, Run!
When I was a kid I was very skinny.
Even so, there was a period of time as a child that I recall getting a big belly on me: it wasn’t long, it was a brief moment, perhaps a year in total, but that was enough for the bullies of this world. I recall, at one point, suddenly having to sprint across a street with my sister and, at that moment, a young girl who was sitting with her family several feet away suddenly stood up and pointed at me, shouting:
“Fat boy! Fat boy! Fat boy!”
Her siblings–sitting next to her–laughed.
I never forgot that moment.
That happened to me one time in all my life. One time. I’m incredibly lucky: there are those who had to deal with body shaming every single day of their life. But that day still stuck with me and I never forgot it, which means I cannot imagine just how scarring it is to have to live with that kind of taunting on a consistent basis.
Why do we do this to each other? And why do we let others do that to other people? I, for one, am tired of the old paradigm that a perfect body is one that is super skinny or has six pack abs.
After eight years of paying more attention to my physical body, I’ve accepted that my body is not conventionally perfect.
It never will be.
I have accepted that.
I am chubbier now than I used to be in high school, and even though I’m okay with that, I do occasional get comments from folks that are meant to imply that perhaps I’m not in the shape they would like me to be in.
Somone recently said it bluntly:
“You got fat.”
Suffice it to say, that person is no longer in my life but still, what he meant by “fat” was not a statement of fact, it was meant to make me feel bad. I was supposed to feel ashamed, embarrassed, humilated by the realization that I had “let myself go.”
That little girl who called me “fat boy” when I was briefly a chubby kid was up to the same thing, too: it was not an objective observation about my body meant to encourage me to be more healthy, no, it was meant to sting.
Writers and Their Perfect Bodies
I began the blog writing about how I was discovering that my body could do more than I thought it could, and now in the last chapter of my blog, I’m talking about how my body sometimes can’t do everything I want it to.
I began this story by pushing the limits of my body, and I’m ending it by learning how to respect its limits, accepting that there’s only so far my body can go… and I’m okay with that.
The common trope of fitness bloggers these days is to set the goal of becoming an Olympic-style athlete–we have to look like Adonis or Aphrodite and anything less than that is unimpressive, mediocre, or you just “phoning it in.”
Well, okay, but what about somone like me? What about those who tried? I am no Olympian and lord knows I can’t run a marathon anymore than I could seven years ago, when I “ran” my first 5k. (More like walked.)
What about the man who tried at fitness and only went as far as his body’s limits could take him–is he a failure?
No. I think not.
Maybe the fitness bloggers of the world should understand that every body is different, but still perfect, including its limitations.
I recall when I met with a trainer for the first time, I asked for a fitness routine to keep my body healthy: my trainer looked at me strangely and kept prodding me with questions about my body image, curious about how I wanted to look at the beach, and how I wanted to attract the opposite sex. (I’m gay, as you know, but she didn’t know that.)
In any case, it struck me as odd that she thought it was odd that all I wanted from the fitness routine was to be healthy. She didn’t understand that by that point I had accepted my own limitations: I just knew I was no triathlete and I also knew that accepting that fact was not underachieving.
It was just loving my body for what it was, not what society thinks it should be.
The End of The Road
These days I listen to my body more: sometimes it does want me to eat vegan, but sometimes it craves meat. Sometimes it has me jogging for hours, other days it prefers a brisk walk. Some days it wants me to rest all day, other days it appears to work perfectly fine on a few hours of sleep.
Our bodies are all different, they have different needs, and different limitations and I am learning that this is exactly how it’s supposed to be.
My body is perfect, and yours is, too.
What matters, all that matters, is that you are happy and healthy and that you listen and take care of your body and not ignore it.
I now accept that there’s nothing wrong with being little chubby if that’s how people see me.
I’m in love with my body and my body is in love with me
Will I always carry some body insecurity?
Of course. I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t.
My fitness story didn’t end with me becoming a triathlete.
It ended with me recognizing the power of my body along with its shortcomings. And recognizing that this doesn’t make me a failure at physical fitness, just somone who knows when he has reached the end of his path and looks for other paths to explore, instead of trying to make of an already completed path something more.
For eight years on this blog we’ve spoken about romance, soul mates, and the search for divine partnerships. We have spoken about heartbreak, dissapointment, and the disillusionment that comes with the end of romantic relationships.
I’d like to speak now about what we’ve learned over the years about romantic love and how we can leave the old paradigm of toxic relationships and enter the new paradigm of divine partnership.
Every Love Story Ends With A Kiss–Except This
As a culture, we are obsessed with love stories: from Platos Symposium to Jerry Maguire, the popular romance mythology is that each of us is looking for somone to “complete us”–without which we are not truly whole.
What I have learned is that this is a damaging mythology. It posits that our romantic partner must, beyond just being a mate, a friend, somone to share the life journey with –must also heal all our wounds and be the sole source of our joy and fufillment.
No wonder so many modern relationships end in divorce. We are asking too much of romance, we’re asking way too much of our soul mates.
Our soul mates can never save us from ourselves and it’s not their task to do so.
I myself bought into Platos philosophy – even though I told you at the very beginning of this blog that I wouldn’t dare do so, I did. As many of us do.
I sought another person to complete my story, another to make my story whole, another to help secure my joy and happiness and, yes, help grant me my story’s happy ending.
Every good story must have a good love story, we are told, every romantic tale ends with a kiss.
But not this.
My story–my love story–doesn’t end that way.
And today I will share with you why I think my story is the better for it.
A Love Story In One Part
I’m sure that, one day, probably sooner than I think, I’ll find a partner, but it hasn’t happened yet, and I now understand it is not for want of trying.
It’s because this story, the story of me writing my first novel, is the story of true romance revised: us, humanity as a collective, moving toward a new way of thinking about relationships.
We, as a collective, are maturing when it comes to creating our romantic relationships. We are recognizing that the old fairy tales just aren’t cutting it: they simply don’t work. Far from happily ever after, it’s creating a nation of very bitter and confused ex-wives and ex-boyfriends.
We all should desire stories of love requited. We should want people who want us; we should love people who love us; we should pursue people who pursue us.
Sounds simple enough, but I am betting that you or somone you know is lost in their own toxic unrequited Love Story: their very own Ross and Rachel, Dawson and Joey, Jack Twist and Ennis Del Mar.
In other words: a tragedy that is made to APPEAR romantic and desirable but, when you look at it closely, is really really not.
You deserve to be with somone who wants to be around you. If, on the other hand, they want to leave you, trust me, you are better off with them not hanging around. And yet how many of us struggle to move on from somone who finds it very easy to move on from us.
It’s all backward.
We are here to love, here to experience romantic love, but not tragic unrequited love. But they like to say: “better to love and lost than to have never loved at all” –the classic excuse to distract us from the utter uselessness and psychologically damaging experience of love unrequited.
No: It’s better to have loved and kept loving than anything else at all. Period. End of sentence. Drop the mic. There is no romantic “loss” that we “need” to experience.
We DO NOT need to pine, grasp, desperately cling to anyone in order to make sure that we at least have a drop of this thing called “romantic love” because we better enjoy something lest we “never love at all.”
Poppycosh. (What am I? English? And from the 1800s?)
Let’s change the narrative – write and create a new love story for yourself, one that doesn’t involve a last minute sprint to the airport to catch the “love of your life” who is just about to leave you because… uhm … going to another country and living as far as way from you as he possibly can–is undeniable proof that he must truly love you…
What about the turnabout: a story about him traveling across the country to move to where you live to be close to you because he loves you so much? Instead of you chasing him? With the begging. And the pleading. And the bargaining. And the clinging. And the pining.
Chasing another person to complete your life story is a fools errand, and won’t deliver the final resolution you’ve been looking for all your life.
My personal story doesn’t end with a kiss, because it was never meant to.
The final image is far more jarring, revolutionary, and groundbreaking.
It’s the image of me leaving–proudly and defiantly–an old toxic pattern of an obsession with the idea of romantic love that wasn’t doing me any favors, wasn’t fufilling me, wasn’t bringing me joy, wasn’t really “completing” me at all.
It was holding me back, just as it may be holding you back, just as it may be holding back a huge number of people out there.
Leave Those Who Don’t Know How To Love You
Here’s what I did for closure: I released my old story of toxic partnership and created a new one of divine partnership. I rewrote the ending, and, you know what? I made sense of what came before. It all suddenly became clear to me. By concluding it, I finally understood it.
I ended a bad romance, ended the old rotten mythology that has been plaguing humanity for decades, centuries probably, ever since good ol’ Plato, and just as recently as Jerry Mc-friggin-guire.
Dear reader, please do what I did: leave the people who don’t know how to love you. You are better without them, you can make it without them, and you are deserving of a far better love story than the one they are offering.
You deserve better than droplets of romantic love… hold off until the romantic love waterfall.
You’re not “missing out” by leaving those who can’t truly love you, you’re just setting yourself free to be truly loved one day by somone who is truly deserving of you.
Somone who knows how to love you.
Rewrite Your Romance
Your love story doesn’t have to be tragic.
Even the love story that didn’t work out: you have the power to create a new ending for it, so that it all makes sense.
So that it finally sits right in your heart.
At first I thought: “that’s unfortunate that my love tale doesn’t end with a kiss.”
But I now realize just how perfect it is: my love story may not be ending with a kiss, but it is ending with a smile.
And I do hope it’s infectious and I do hope it gives you the courage to walk around as your single, fabulous self: happy, free, content, at peace and incredibly excited as to what’s coming next, and even more excited to know that you’re finally leaving your old story behind, the story of broken men who don’t know how to love you back (and you desperately waiting for them to change.)
I hope you smile, like I am smiling, knowing, truly knowing, what a lucky bastard anyone would be to have you, and knowing that you’re finally making the change, and knowing you’re not going backwardz, you’re only moving forward now.
I have learned now that not every love story ends with a kiss, some love stories (like mine) end with a smile, a single smile.
And that, my dear reader, is so enough, so brilliant, and so refreshing, and so very >big long sigh< liberating.
Advanced English Lit
For the last eight years we have discussed what it takes to build a creative career: I’d now like to speak about what we’ve learned over the years about building our artistic careers and what it takes to finally succeed.
Accidental Death of The Gatekeeper
If you recall, I started this blog with many ruminations on the state of contemporary art. My argument at the time was that it was bleak: artists were no longer timely, no longer commenting on the issues of today or making any powerful statements about it.
Boy have things changed.
Since the start of this blog, more and more original artists, including writers, are rising to the challenge and not only speaking to the issues of the day but transforming the dialogue surrounding these issues–and sometimes even changing laws through their eloquent artistic efforts.
As you might imagine, I encourage more of this, but I don’t think I need to: I think it’s going to happen more and more no matter what I say or do.
Because now something different is happening: the artist isn’t accidentally dying, he’s being resuscitated, quite magnificently, meanwhile the “gatekeepers,” the people who used to get to decide what counts as art, have died a sudden and unexpected death.
You are looking at proof of that.
This blog is a published novel.
Who says so? I say so. And why do I get to say so? Because no gatekeeper gets to say otherwise.
I have truly been given the freedom to write my novel in the way I see fit and publish it for a wide international audience.
No one–NO ONE–no government, no corporation and no elite group of gatekeepers edits or censors what I write here on this blog.
This is Ollin: raw, pure, unfiltered. For the masses.
(That sounded pornographic, sorry. It was meant to be awe-inspiring.[See what I mean? Nobody censors this s#%@t.])
My point is this: while I wrote this blog, the publishing industry was upended, the music industry was upended, the film industry was upended, every gatekeeper and their gate was blown to bits.
And good riddance, I say.
A gay Chicano man who literally speaks to Angels is not exactly “mainstream-friendly.”
Where on earth would they put me? What box would I possibly fit into?
Would they really have “let me in” if it wasn’t for blogging and the internet and social media?
I can only exist because of the modern era of no gatekeepers.
You want to publish a novel? Get yourself a blog, type it up, post it.
There it is, Published for all to see.
Learn some basic social media skills and you can get quite a readership, it’s really not as hard as it looks, you just have to be determined and you have to love it.
Want to be a singer? Get yourself a “sound cloud”channel and post up your tunes now.
You want to be a documentarian? Go out, interview some local people about how crazy your town mayor is and make a podcast about it now.
You want to paint? paint yourself a mural and post it on instagram, but now please.
Put up your poetry on Twitter, share your recipes on Pinterest. Make a friggin’ sculpture and then showcase it on Snapchat.
I said it before and I will say it again: this is the most exciting time to be a writer/artist.
The gatekeepers are dead, the gates have all been shattered, so get out there and make your dreams happen.
There’s no longer anyone who has the power to shut the door in your face. At least not completely or forever.
Writers and Their Published Novels
One of my favorite plot twists of Courage 2 Create over the years was the day I realized that this blog was my novel all along.
It was more than a simple paradigm shift, it was emblematic of our current era, which represents a vast deterioration of centralized authority.
I know, I’m getting super academic here, but it is TRUE.
Everyone bemoans the end of some of these institutions and industries, but has anyone ever thought of how many brilliant artists these very same institutions and industries have shut out over the years?
Potentially in the hundreds…maybe even in the millions.
When you think about it that way, maybe you can understand why I pronounced that my book was published with absolute glee.
I have the power to do that now.
I am a published novelist.
No one can take that away from me because no one can truly give it to me anymore.
I am truly the master of my fate and that is only made true because of the internet.
Build A Dream, Then Achieve It
How do we build a successful career? The answer won’t be the same for everyone, but, as I always do, I want to offer you my insight.
If you want to succeed in your creative career, don’t wait for the gatekeepers.
Before I wrote this blog, I applied to creative writing graduate school. They didn’t accept me.
What absolute idiots they were.
Seriously. I’m not kidding.
I’m glad they didn’t accept me: it was the best thing that ever happened to my writing career because I realized I didn’t need them to be a badass writer. I just needed to write!
What makes any gatekeeper qualified to say your work is worthy of being seen anyway?
No one should ever hold such power.
Back in the caveman days if the cavemen (or women) wanted to be artistic they just painted on the frakkin’ cave wall. They never asked anyone for permission, they didn’t enter it into a contest, they didn’t go to cavemen school for cave painting, they didn’t apply to get a fancy degree in the art of using charcoal and spit.
They just made art.
And this is how and why The Artist is alive again, making timely art, good art, sometimes good enough to bubble up to the mainstream, but certainly not popular enough to be considered a practice in pandering.
The gatekeepers are dead, sure, some of them are desperately clinging to life, but they know their time has come, its over, it’s been over, they know it, anyone who tells you otherwise is lying to you, they know that no one needs their scoffing and condescension anymore.
They are obsolete, outdated.
I am part of what’s new, and so are you.
So, make some art my friend. Your career is waiting for you right here and right now: go ahead and grab it, don’t suffocate your creativity by attaching it to external validation.
Those days are over, baby.
We are doing what our artistic ancestors used to do, not asking for permission, not waiting for acceptance or approval, not looking for reward, simply expressing our art for the masses because there just happens to be a cave wall available and our cave brotha and sistah are digging our style!
Who says The Artist was dead?
Oh that’s right: I did, but I spoke to soon.
The Artist is very much alive.
It’s The Gatekeeper who’s got a chalk outline of him on the nearby street corner.
The internet dunnit.
God bless this digital space. God bless the new cave wall.
Now: onward writers, do as I did, publish your novels now, not later.
The only thing standing in your way now is your belief that you can’t.
That’s the tiniest obstacle that has ever existed for any artist since the beginning of art itself.
So get to work fellow courageous creators.
No one–literally no one–can stop you now.
The Final Report Card
As you can see my Man In Progress journey has been one long tedious journey back to me and my truth: my body was already perfect, I could always find joy by being single; and finally, living my novel, living my life, this life, was all I needed to do to truly succeed in my writing career.
Showing up, being me and doing what I Love was always enough, it will always be enough.
Progress gets published when you realize there was no progress to begin with: all you were doing in life was becoming more of who you already were.
Just one very long journey back to yourself.