On women …
What Fat Thor Taught Me About Being Okay With My Weight and My Depression.
The uproar over Fat Thor in Avengers Endgame was, to put it simply, idiotic.
Quite the contrary, Fat Thor was brilliant.
Methinks the mindless twits on Twitter with their groupranthink doth protest way too damn much.
Apparently, the fact that Thor having a gut was too offensive for their delicate sensibilities.
Added to that, their accusation that some of the remarks the surviving members of the Avengers in the film made at his physical appearance was a form of “Fat Shaming” is beyond ridiculous.
The Avengers are comrades, they’re friends, they’re like an amiable bunch of athletes. You are going to dig on your friends for two reasons, because they love your quirks and because they call you out.
They did it with Captain America in Age of Ultron with the running “language” bit. They also did the same thing with Hawkeye being old in the same movie. They always dig on Bruce Banner for being geeky and socially awkward.
It’s par for the course.
Before I continue, however, I feel I should be as transparent as possible and establish my bonafides.
First, what qualifies me to talk about the subject?
I know, it’s a shocking revelation.
I’ve lived most of my life heavier than thinner.
Currently, I’m hovering around the two hundred and thirty pound mark.
According to the height ( I’m 5’11 ½” ) and age chart at my doctor’s office, I am considered clinically obese.
Last year, I was around two hundred and fifty pounds.
There were a couple of years were I weighed a lithe two hundred and twenty pounds.
At my heaviest, back in the mid-nineties, I weighed two hundred and eighty-five pounds.
I’ve struggled with my weight all of my life.
I’ve worked out more often than not for the past ten years, so there is some muscle, but more strength.
Oh, and I still bear the scars of childhood bullying from mean little assholes. The trauma is gone, but the memory is not.
So I feel that definitely qualifies me to talk about this particular subject.
Oh, and I guess I should have prefaced this blog with the words *SPOILER ALERT!!!!!* typed in all caps, bookended with asterisks, followed by a slew of exclamation points, in bold, and underlined.
But really, if you haven’t seen the movie already, then what in the hell is wrong with you?
So, back to Thor.
When I saw Avengers Endgame in the theater, and Fat Thor first appeared, the first of two thoughts shot out into the night sky of my mind and flared like a Fourth of July firework:
Holy crap – that’s me!
That immediate gut reaction was to his physical change.
That was me up on the screen.
I was represented.
Granted, I looked nowhere near as handsome as that damned Chris Hemsworth. His body shape was also slightly different than mine – my gut is not so prominent and my arms are not that muscular.
Nevertheless, I felt the strangest sensation watching him. In a way it was like being home. Like I could breathe comfortably.
Then there’s the scene where Hulk and Rocket Raccoon go to Thor’s home in New Asgard and try to convince him to rejoin The Avengers. There is a lot of comedy in that scene, and it’s easy to miss if you’re viewing it on a purely superficial level, but the mess, the bottles of beer and pizza boxes strewn everywhere, the way Thor’s dressed.
Then there’s Thor’s demeanor – the look in his eye, the way he talks, the way he carries himself. Those are all the telltale signs.
And this is the pure beauty, the sheer genius of Thor’s story arc:
Thor is sad, Thor is beaten, Thor is bruised, Thor is broken, Thor is depressed.
This was the second firecracker of a revelation I saw.
I saw and I understood.
That’s how depression looks like for some people. That’s how it was for me.
Not note for note, of course – because everyone’s battle with depression is different. But it always has to do with slowly being unable to things that others do with no problem, or even with things that you were able to do before with ease that seem impossible now.
Depression can come suddenly with the loss of a loved one. Depression can come with a sudden and drastic life change. Or depression can hover over you like a specter since birth, and wait, biding its time to slip into the cartilage of your joints.
During the course of Phases 1 through 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we saw in his struggles, pieces of him hammered, cracked, then chipped away, but he persisted.
He had a duty. He felt it was his job to solve all the problems that were destroying his world and the ones he loved. Only he could do it. He shouldered everything. He didn’t ask for help. Then when the killing blow was struck, it was not he who had won – it was Thanos.
And that was it.
He tried as hard as he could to hold himself together, to put on a brave face and soldier on. Then when he tried again one last valiant time – nothing.
To me, Thor was the image of my depression. In Thor, we see a god-man, once bright and beautiful and unbreakable and unstoppable just pure focus and vision and charm and wit, just the very best of how we see – or want to see – ourselves, and we see him simply break in two.
And the sad genius of it was that it was laid out well in advance, and it happened over time – since The Dark World. We saw him slowly crack. And it’s a scientific fact that if you hammer away at an object with the right tools, in the right way, it eventually cracks.
He lost his mother. Crack.
He lost his father. Crack.
He lost his friends. Crack.
He lost his hammer. Crack.
He lost his home. Crack.
He lost his brother. Crack.
He lost his half his people. Crack.
Then he lost half the life in the Universe. Crack.
And then, finally, he simply lost. CRACK.
Thor lost everything that he thought he was. He lost everything that he thought defined him. He tried everything, and nothing worked.
We all saw it onscreen. We saw the result:
All that was left was a man, only a man, a scared man, a raw, vulnerable, frightened human.
It was frightening to see onscreen. It’s even more frightening when you are actually going through something like that.
When you have a job, a task, a responsibility, and the weight of carrying it for so long, in silence, without asking for help, or refusing any help given, but with each step forward you can sense the small cracks underneath you like being on a frozen lake that you can feel breaking, but you ignore it, because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?
And that is the devil hidden deep in the details when it comes to depression – especially with male depression. We bear our burdens silently, because asking for help is admitting weakness, and admitting weakness is a Cardinal Sin for many of us. It is the fatal flaw in our own, personal Greek tragedy that destroys us in the end.
For me, it was starting up a brand new relationship just eight months after being divorced to my high school girlfriend, the last five years of which was highly toxic. Crack.
My new relationship with my ex-girlfriend, who needed special attention because she struggled with so many mental health problems. Crack.
My trying to be a good man and a good father to her daughters. Crack.
My trying to be a good, responsible son and care for my father who went from having severe Crohns disease to getting terminal cancer of the gall bladder and the liver. Crack.
Me, trying to handle all of this on my own, by myself, not talking to anyone about it. Crack.
My slow-slipping down into reckless behaviors, behaviors which caused my girlfriend and I to break up. Crack.
My father passing away. Crack.
Fortunately, I finally sought help. I saw a therapist, who then said I should see a psychiatrist. I went to my doctor, who referred me to the man who saved my mind.
Almost five years later, I’m still around.
Thor survived, and even fat he stepped up. Even after breaking, with the help of his friends, and his anger and his courage, he helped his friends, he helped them win. Greater still, he overcame his fears.
And though I’ve had days where all I’ve wanted to do was stay home and stay in bed – even with medication – I’ve stepped up and helped those friends and family who needed me. I’ve failed them sometimes, but I’ll never stop trying.
And I will continue to step up, grow stronger, grow calmer, because I have a little eighty year old mother whom I love dearly who, like my father, will need me to see them through to the end.
I know it will be hard.
I know it will devastate me.
But I have friends now, who stubbornly insist that I not slip into the Darkness.
I have family who I am no longer afraid to ask for help.
And I have Fat Thor, beautifully portrayed by Chris Hemsworth, with pathos, grace, and humanity.
Thank you, Chris.
Thank you, Kevin Feige.Thank you, Russo Brothers.
Thank you, Stan Lee.
And thank you, Fat Thor.
Thank you for showing me – this fat, broken, socially awkward old geek –
that I am worthy.
In Memoriam: My Aunt Baby.
I did not know how to say how I loved you.
Once I knew you had passed, my mind began to map out the area of three-dimensional space you had inhabited in my heart.
I never knew just how much.
And once I had mapped it, I knew its breadth, its height and its depth.
It was vast.
I was sad.
Your absence left a vacuum in my life.
My Aunt Baby passed away this past Tuesday. Her real name was Viola, but her family nickname was Baby.
Oldest sibling of my mother’s five – two males, four females in all – my Aunt Baby was a formidable woman – strong like a granite fist, her mind for most of her life, razor sharp.
Yet she laughed at the ridiculous and the absurd – and that’s one of the things I loved about her. She also had her fussy ways and I know that despite the distance that created between us, she loved me.
The love I felt from her was like the love you’d want to feel from your favorite elementary school teacher, or librarian.
It was distant, but it was neither cold nor dismissive nor neglectful.
It was a very certain and specific love, the dimensions of which were easy to comprehend. And yet, maybe, in spite of that, or perhaps because of it, you knew that she loved you to the near-bursting point of those boundaries.
And it was that knowledge that made it good and true.
It made me feel safe, the reliability of it. The security.
It was balanced, and it was nice.
I did not know you that well while you lived, but your presence served as one of a select few guideposts that defined my life:
Don’t hide your intelligence.
Speak your mind.
Live with dignity.
Enjoy the small things.
I am so thankful that you were in my life, Aunt Baby. I didn’t know that I needed you in it.
You Are Not Alone: Death Rebirth Rest Change Nature Cycles Depression and the Christ child – or A Nativity Story for Non-Natives.
“And the sleepiness kicks back in, this time more from sadness, the lethargy from my exhaustion from work is there, too. This very paragraph is where I’ve started writing, because I wanted to try and accurately describe how it feels, what I’m going through right now.
I simultaneously want to cry and fall asleep.
My eyes are closing while tears collect around the corners of my eyes.
And the feeling of falling away into the deep blue state of oblivion comes back strong.
I have to put my phone down now eyes can’t stay open.”
I wrote this yesterday, when I was grieving after receiving the news that another dear, sweet, older coworker had passed away from a heart attack.
About two weeks ago this evening I attended the memorial service that was held for a coworker, s kind, sweet, positive older woman, who finally succumbed to her six-year battle with cancer, leaving her husband – another coworker at our elementary school – and three children here on this plane of existence.
It was hard going to the service.
You see, lately I’ve been having a problem with funerals or memorial services for the deceased since my father lost his battle to liver and gall-bladder cancer.
I’m getting drowsy again. I wonder, is this my depression, wanting me to shut down and go to sleep because it’s too much to process – especially when my body is already recovering from the physical exhaustion of working too many hours at my campus? Is it just the physical exhaustion? Or is it a combination of both?
Depression is funny that way. Even medicated, it’s hard to tell where the depression ends and you begin.
Can’t keep my eyes open anymore.
Time to sleep.
My mom woke me.
I think ten-fifteen minutes have passed.
Right now I’m in the study/Music room in The Last Homely House, listening to a mix of modern throwback Christmas music by Pearl Jam, Sufjan Stevens, Dave Matthews and other Alternative, Indie, and singer-songwriter, along with some Beth Orton.
The study is filled with the clean gleam of gentle, natural sunlight, a sharp contrast to the midnight blue dark of my bedroom yesterday.
The grief has left for the most part, the lethargy has departed as well. Now it’s mostly a cozy church mouse sleepiness I’ve been feeling.
I got up at seven and did my Christmas shopping. I was done by 9:30 a.m.
So, slowly but surely, my forced bed rest is helping my energy to come back.
I live my life by the schedule of my sleep now.
Ever since I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, and I discovered that lack of sleep really does cause a lot of damage for anyone with a mental illness – especially an untreated mental illness – I get as much sleep as I possibly can. And somehow, I knew this. As I grew older, it became harder and harder for me to be fully functional on five hours or less of sleep. My ex-girlfriend saw this firsthand. I became very emotional, very negative. I would joke that being in that state would make me suicidal – but that wasn’t far from the truth. I just wanted to drop everything and go to bed. I was a person who needed eight hours – seven minimum.
Now I’m a teacher. I have to be on campus by 7:30. My daily commute is thirty minutes. But I like getting to work early, even knocking out a kettlebell workout real quick. And I also like to make time to eat a good sit down breakfast, and watch a little CNN. So in order to do all that, I need to be up by 4. I try to be in bed by eight pm.
Regular weekend nights out no longer exist for me, even just staying up late reading, or watching TV – those are pleasures I can simply no longer indulge in.
But sleep, glorious, languid descents into the deepest, darkest caverns of Oblivion – a darkness so complete, I rarely remember my dreams – that is a pleasure I now long for daily.
It’s funny, but I had to change the person I was to save the person I could be, the person I’m supposed to be. And there’s still more changing I need to do.
But the sedentary, junk-food-eating, unfocused night-owl is dead.
Because all that I did and was doing to myself was making me miserable physically and mentally. I was like a smoker with lung cancer, a diabetic who kept eating sugary sweets. I was doing everything that would exacerbate my depression and ADHD.
So that part of me – which seemed like such an integral part of me, like it was tied to my identity – had to die.
I had to do two things which terrified the fuck out of me:
Die and Change.
Death and Change.
I see that now, those two phases are essential to the cycle of life, to the cycle of your evolution as a human.
And it requires rest and recovery. That’s what I’m doing – that’s what I’ve been doing ever since my father and my old life died. That’s why I barely go out. That’s why I sleep. That’s why I spoil myself. A part of me knows another change, another phase of my life is about to begin, and this one involves me finally doing continuous exercise and ends with me quitting the regular drinking, until I don’t drink at all. So instinctively my body is resting. I’m like a field in the winter, laying fallow.
We have to change, we have to die, we have to let go of all the things we make ourselves feel we need that help define our identity but are toxic to us.
We die either way at the end.
The question is how do you want to go?
As your true, whole, happy self?
Or as a sickly, angry, used shadow of yourself?
These recent deaths are terrible. They are terrible in different ways. One family saw it coming, so there was time to prepare despite hope, but a sixty-year-year-old man has lost his life partner for good, and he will have to raise his teenage girls and older son on his own. The other family lost their matriarch suddenly, quickly – and cruelly – right before Christmas. Things will never be the same.
They won’t. And it’s terrible. But there is always hope that families can get past that void.
Five years ago, my mother, myself, and my siblings could not imagine a world without our father. But living here, in the same house – even after I practically moved in with my ex-girlfriend, I knew something was going to happen. I knew something was wrong. So I set my mind to abandoning the life I had built with my ex, moving back in with my parents, and waiting for the time when he would get so sick, he’d need constant tending to. I set my mind so hard to it, I became fatalistic – And that triggered the worst depressive episode I’d gone through.
Bad judgement, lack of communication, lack of compromise – that’s what killed my relationship. Then her discovering an emotional relationship I had begun with a very unprofessional ex-assistant principal is what cut us off for good.
Our relationship died. Who we were died, but it took me killing it to see that I had mental health issues that needed diagnosing and treating.
My life has been a constant shedding of skins that I never expected to shed and that I truly thought were me.
My mother, my whole family has. We’ve had to adjust to the changes. And we move on, our lives now tinged with the memory of my father’s death.
Death and Change.
Nothing is permanent.
The only thing that can be permanent is your understanding and acceptance of that one truth: nothing is permanent.
Who you are.
What you have.
The material and immaterial things that you think define you – they can, and probably will, change in an instant. We just don’t know when.
Life is change.
Life is impermanence.
Life is a work in progress that you truly never get to complete.
To some reading this, the news might terrify the hell out of you, but that’s not my intention. That’s not my takeaway.
The takeaway is: know this, so you can live the life you want, your way, for yourself, without having to answer to anyone.
Life is precious.
And it’s yours, to do with what you will.
And for those who may be depressed during this season, please understand, it’s all about perspective.
This day is not supposed to be about gifts, how many and how much.
This is day is not supposed to be about family – even when it’s good – because most of us know that’s a lie, that family are the first, and sadly sometimes, the only ones who truly hurt, abandon, and betray us.
Today, well, this evening, marks the occasion where a working-class man decided to have the back of a Woman he loved who had a child who was not his own. This couple was on the run and the only shelter they could find for themselves and this child was a poorly manger, a shelter for animals. Shepards, some Wise Men, an angel. A strange collection all, strangers all, who were all probably laughed at, but who stopped, and made their way to see a child, to see life, despite it’s cruel miseries.
The story of this occasion does not exemplify an ideal of being satisfied living in a world of material excess. Far from it – the materially rich in this story were represented by an insecure, jealous king who decided to murder all the male babies he could find in fear of the rise of this one particular child.
No. This is a story of looking down at your feet, at looking up over your head, at looking into the mirror, and seeing an imperfect survivor living an imperfect life on the run the best way you can manage – and saying, “I’m alive. This is now and I’m alive.”
So, yeah, there’s death, there’s change, but there’s also rest, and recovery. The tree drops it leaves and grays, then splays out in a thousand shades of undulating emerald a season later.
It’s about rest and seasons and time, and simply being.
Amidst all the sexy, shiny, glossy screens telling you, showing you:
YOU NEED THIS.
YOU MUST HAVE THIS.
YOU MUST BE LIKE THIS,
You have fulfilled their purpose in this manufactured illusion of “gotta have gotta buy!” and perverted inversion of an ancient tale that taught an important lesson and you have forgotten THE most important thing:
YOU are the gift.
I close my eyes and for a moment I picture the box …
My mind wanders.
My eyes open.
It’s been three years since I bought you the ring. It was perfect, remember? Like nothing no one had seen before. It was vintage. And it was you. And it felt so right.
Three years since I proposed, and I still can’t sort out the sounds of the beating of my heart you saying yes us laughing the sounds of our kisses the slowing then speeding up of our bodies our breathing as we make love.
The speeding up and slowing down of time.
The image of a wooden box …
Your house is fixed up finally. It finally becomes our house. I have my home.
We fill it with the things that are Us. We don’t live like the Boring Rest.
We are a family. The four of us. You, me, the girls. We are glued, bonded permanently by love and arguments and lessons learned and taught and tears and laughter and talking and weekend night Netflix binges and lazy Saturday morning pancakes, Nutella French toast sandwiches topped with fresh strawberries.
I hold my breath a second. Something hurts. I picture the box again.
The image goes away because we go to concerts, check in to hotels, wander strange cities travel have adventures laugh.
We have our jobs. Our workaday lives. We text each other throughout the day. Just hellos I miss yous silly memes that make us laugh – remember that time?
But that box …
We come home. You make dinner it’s amazing as always. The night winds down showers and everybody to bed and phones away as the girls grumble damp-haired and fresh from showers in soft PJs as they hand them over kiss us goodnight hugs and they close the door behind us.
We cuddle up to each other, saying as we always do – that this our favorite part of the day. Our bodies melding into one comfylump bedbeast. I breathe in the smell of your hair.
We take our medication together.
The dark times behind us.
The feeling empty cold stomach alone in the same room, the old rituals frozen meaningless.
You’ve forgiven me, forgiven the things I did, the betrayal when I was hurt and mad and lost, the excuses, the attacks, the justifications.
I tried so hard to build a cocoon of safety around you, around us, nothing no one will ever hurt you ever.
Until I did.
Until I tore it all down.
Until I lost.
Lost my home.
Until my depression showed me just what kind of person I could be when everything became too much the lies of the secret lives I led.
And I loved you.
I love you.
I will always love you.
And you love me. But we can never put back together what I tore down. And all the past three years have been our dissolution, our separation. And all I have are the what if pasts and revisionist memories of an alternate reality life. The old dry cattle bone shade wood skeleton houses built in the minds of the guilty and the regretful. Built so they can be haunted.
We loved each other.
Love each other.
And I thought love … I thought love …
Love could not save us.
This is not a movie.
This is not a Broadway musical or a fairy tale.
Our love was not stronger than our mental illnesses. We became our poison.
And now, three years later, I know two things with certainty:
I cannot see you again, because it will destroy me, because I see how our scars have scabbed, they scabbed very differently, and we will never be at peace.
And I still love you.
I will always love you.
What a cruel, fucking joke.
When will it go away?
Does it ever go away?
Am I stupid for voicing this thought out loud? Am I naïve? Am I a fool for not knowing something everyone else does?
Still I live on, I breathe, I walk.
I live my life I laugh my laugh.
But in the quiet and alone, in the brief pauses between heartbeats, in the passing shimmer of a shooting star, a thought escapes.
How to close what remains open?
Where do I put all this when it comes creeping out and still brings me to tears?
I have this box, you see.
It’s made of wood.
Upon it’s surface a delicate filigreed, swirling pattern is carved.
It’s not a real, this box.
It looks like one my brother gave me. But this box is in my mind. I place those feelings in there.
Usually they escape. Sometimes I purposely take them out.
They’re so heavy. My heart the sick weight of a collapsing star.
Every day I drag it an inch further away from my heart.
One day they’ll stay in there, those feelings.
One day they won’t come out.
Maybe one day I’ll stop sensing them pulsating within.
And then maybe one day, I don’t know when, maybe one day the box will disappear completely.
And I’m terrified of that day.
at the dinner table.
glad to be together.
glad to eat together.
memories are remembered.
slivers of time
accruing in increments
in multiples of sixty
when halved, thirty
divided by ten
the Divine number,
the mystic Trinity.
forming floral petal fractals
the sacred mathematics of family,
the beating of our hearts
beats in time,
the beating of our hearts
the beauty and humility of
by the morning bell chime
the catching up.
the how’ve you been.
the what have you been up to.
the remember when.
wild foolishness of youth,
of the times when
we shouldn’t but we did,
of the times of Together.
missing loved ones
no longer with us,
sailed beyond the Silver Curtain.
The beating of
like the beating of
with the same blood
with different blood
with blended blood.
Mexican Muslim Anglo
-and the transcendent
of the children of both.
the unity of family
gay lesbian husbands and wives, widows and life partners
never to divide.
souls broken and whole and healing.
the nightmare of Trump’s “America”
is the glorious, glittering living dream of my family.
my beautiful Technicolor family.
adults of paper and children of technology.
joyous hearts beating.
glad souls eating.
warm lights and warm hearts and lighthearts.
of generations past,
of those gone on
among us still,
in the glow of
wine and Christmas lights.
the table that has fed generations.
the kitchen that has produced miracles,
making anger and hunger dissipate
in equal parts.
a recipe for love.
a chemical bond.
a culinary magic,
it’s spell cast,
with each serving served by a loved one
who serves a loved one
who serves a loved one,
serving a circle,
around the table,
for the selfless love
for another year,
for all those that are gathered here.
like the wine at the
while all this time,
new memories are made.
the sacred spell sealed.
eyes grow tired.
aches are eased.
bellies are full.
souls at ease.
the warmth of
and good food served
has done it’s job.
the ritual is completed,
the spell sealed,
the bond is reset.
it is done.
it is good.
clear the plates,
It’s time for pie.