The Countdown Has Begun


In a mere 24 days I go under the knife for weight reduction surgery.  Now, some of you may know of it and for others it’s news, but for me it has been a long road uphill to get there.  Bariatric surgery and in particular the one I’ve chosen – the Roux-en-Y procedure – is fraught with a certain mystery and a certain sense of foreboding.  But I’ve done all that I can do to prepare and, for the most part, I am ready.  I have been considering it as an option for the last five years.

That, however, does not make it less scary.  Anytime you submit to the scalpel of a surgeon it’s a big deal, but this for me is a really big deal.  Six incisions, all kinds of tubes sticking out of you… and they prod and poke and snip and burn your guts.  The leave a tiny remnant of your stomach referred to as a pouch.  Your original stomach is for all intents and purposes a bag whose only function is producing acids and bile – and inserting those acids way down yonder in your intestinal tract in previously unknown territory.  Yipes.

Some people have questioned my sanity in doing such a thing.  For a while, I thought they were right, and I should take heed.  But time progressed and my stomach seemed to expand with each passing month.  I wasn’t sure what to do,  Now, some people believe it’s a matter of will.  If that was the case, I would have been modeling underwear long ago.  And some people thing it’s a matter of laziness, but I don’t think that’s it.

I think it’s a matter of facing the fact that, at the matured and slightly pungent age of fifty-(almost)-eight, one cannot expect to be thin unless, of course, you drew that  card in the lottery of life.  I didn’t.  And that’s a fact.  Who knew that in all of this twisted universe that there was such a thing as a disordered metabolism?  Not me.  Not to mention my ignorance on a key and very important fact: this whole mess was caused by stress.  Stress!  Who the hell knew that would be a factor to determine my waist size?

It was stress that brought about most of the unfortunate changes in my life or rather my lack of ability to deal with it that caused the untimely demise of my circumference.  Wish I had realized that fact a little sooner, I could have taken a pilgrimage to India and lived as an ascetic holy man living on grass instead of five years of complaining, seven years of therapy and a mountain of stretched underwear.

All that stress caused so many negatives that there was for me only one real positive course of action: do the right thing.  The thing best for your body,  The thing best for your mental health.

Balance the physical and the mental.

So here it comes.  I’m a peace with my decision, yes, but the hard-won path is still before me.  Bariatric surgery is a tool, not the end result, but the means to get there.  It is a paradigm shift in the way I view myself and my relationship with food.  It is, as I expect, a shock to the system and as such, I’m all for it.

Of course I’m scared, who wouldn’t be?  But I’m excited too, excited that I won’t be hungry all the time, that I’ll be satisfied with being on a better footing when it comes to eating.  If it doesn’t work it sure won’t be because I didn’t do my best.  But I’m going to make it work so that when it comes down to it, I’ve done the right thing for myself.


4 thoughts on “The Countdown Has Begun

  1. My beautiful man. Reading this is a stone cold reminder, like being doused with an ice filled bucket of water, that we have been so out of communication. Wow! And this post was entered almost 2 years ago. It means the surgery is almost 2 years old. Given the social environment that we perused here in San Francisco so many years ago, irony is bouncing off the walls.

    The celebrated world of Bears lauded big hairy men, placing the image of male girth that is so castigated in general society upon a sexually praised pedestal. A huge shift is now in that community’s visual advertising showcase, where ideal Bears now are overwhelmingly buff, muscle bound specimens. Yet another example of a segment in our community sliding back into brutal tradition, loosing its allegiance to the original focus: owning & loving & embracing that which is exiled by a viciously vain mainstream. Of course so many factors go into deciding to take stringent action to lose weight–first & foremost health concerns which are paramount.

    The title of this blog & bits of info I’m gleaning from other entries here, hint that indeed medical issues are at hand. I remember the very last time we spoke by phone as you prepared to leave The City. Tumultuous circumstance puts it lightly. I could feel “stress” levels that would repel a hurled knife bouncing off the walls were you were–over-the-top anxiety oozed through my receiver.

    Another hint & reminder is that this year, 2016, you turned 59 years old. Wow again! Thinking of you as newly in the ranks of being a senior citizen zoomed past my radar, as its still trippy for me to now think of myself, at 62 this Nov. 30th, as the same. A few years ago younger folks shocked me as they started getting up to give me their seats when I entered the train. At first I didn’t get it as I didn’t & still don’t feel it (aside from the quirks, twangs & sporadic aches & pains) & people said I didn’t look it. Well, in my late 40’s after never having problems in either area, my blood pressure flew through the roof & I suddenly needed glasses for nearsightedness. Yikes! True reminders indeed!

    The point is we’ve been far too out of touch way too long & this makes it hit like a ton of bricks. So much to know. Details leading up to & now how things are 2 years later (you svelte, muscle-papa you!). What its like being a gay man where you are. What your support system there is like as well. How family members are doing. And so much more.

    I look forward to getting more fully in touch through the many means that are unfolding in our connecting zones. I love you & miss you tremendously. Your first comments on my blog immediately slammed that home–which I’ll reflect more on later as well. Here’s to our shared “richness” realized, re lived & rocketing into the future.

    Your Fundi-Mon!

  2. What a wonderful note to awaken to (far too early thanks to my cat Hercules!). Oh, my friend, the path I trod was not only the most damaging I could have taken, it was the best thing I could have experienced.

    The surgery was only the expression of my will to live which, I assure you, is stronger than I ever could have imagined. I went from as astounding 309 pounds and am now at 170 – svelte? Actually what I put my body through was demanded of me. At that weight I was on – count them – a total of 19 different medications (!) and now that the surgery is done, I am on four, and only three of which are mental health related. Miracle!

    But it has its price, too, and in aging and in combination with the after-effects of the surgery – and also the remarkable amount of destructive stress my bipolar depression inflicted – I aged far faster than I anticipated. Part of it is genetics, too. I am like my mother Dorothy and her side of the family, in looks, in temperament – and in frailty of the physical body. I am just now able to begin to rebuild my body and work toward a holistic health. It’s going to be a lifelong fight, it seems, but I accept totally that if I had not done what had to be done via therapy. medication and physical change, I would be dead, and that is not an exaggeration!

    I cannot tell you of the years of sorrow that followed me across the country, the years of turmoil and self-recrimination, years of social isolation without even the touch of another human to comfort me, all self-imposed, and all needing to be reversed. Yet one cannot reverse time or believe me, I would have done so in a heartbeat. But our journeys are never clear to us, we beings having such limited knowledge and beings with the required sensibilities denied to us unless we dive into experiences of the unknown.

    And now I find myself living where my journey started. I am six miles from my place of birth, three miles from where I grew up, a half-mile from my high school, one street away from the Pentecostal church that caused me and my family so much confusion and pain, and fully three thousand miles from what I feel is my home – which is where you are thriving. There is no gay community here. None. Not even a single leather bar in the entire state! Backward is the motion of this area. Trump stickers on almost every car. I am an oddity here, marked by my posture and attitude alone. Someone even yelled “FAGGOT!” through my apartment door. I overheard someone speaking to another resident of my building on the lawn below my windows, and heard them say, and I quote: “He used to be a performer and he plays the piano all the time. But he’s mentally ill.” This, and no one here has ever recognized me, the only person who has even said hello is a Hindu man that lives on the first floor, and I am treated like a disease. I only stayed here because I was hesitant to leave my mother who, at 86 years old, may not have much time left on the earth.

    But this will change. My lease is up in May, and I have been considering a move to Portland, OR to live with Michael, who has lost his parents, has only a sister that doesn’t interact with him and is going to be alone once Todd and his new boyfriend leave and move to New Orleans, which is their plan. I had already chosen Portland before I reconnected with Michael.

    We have reforged our bond, have made strides toward healing, great strides, and I will (I believe) make Michael my family by choice. And now that both of us are disabled, and have a steady income, we can merge our interests and make a life in a place that is beneficial to us culturally, artistically, emotionally, and most of a place able to easily accept two eccentric old coots that love each other as great friends and can laugh together over the coming sunset years.

    I will be a mere 9-hour ride from SF and it will be easy to get there. I have a car in great shape and paid for in full, I will free up more income and take a part-time job just for fun, I will be excited and have my creativity augmented by Michael (the two of you have a tendency to make my creative bones go wild).

    I will be less than five hours from Seattle, six hours from Vancouver, Canada, near the glorious Columbia River Gorge, near the Pacific, near a gay community of some substance, and all the while working on art and writing and being able to wake up in the morning with a mission, with purpose, with joy. It is what I want.

    Do me a kindness and, beginning from the earliest entry of this blog, read its history and progression. I wrote it not only to understand the therapy I was going through, I wrote it so that others could see the journey and with over 62,000 views, some people have paid attention. And some even understand. But when you read it, you will have the knowledge of who and what I am and represented to you and you will find something remarkable that others will not – you will find that pain and rebirth, a theme you have written of so eloquently, have changed me in such fundamental ways that although I am of course the same person, I have become someone better than I knew I could be. I have accepted that change, work every single day to be better, and am not easily fooled by my own creation of ‘wished’ reality. I am more fully me, warts, wrinkles and all.

    To say I miss you is not only a tremendous understatement, it has been a sadness, a weight, a regret. And it has even been a hope that, as time progressed and my work toward wellness had fruits, I would find all my friends again and in fact my Facebook list of friends shows that many have come back, if even in a limited way, and it turns out that my love for them – and most especially you and Michael – has never, ever wavered. If it were not for Heather Cherry I would have been a casualty and I owe her so very much I cannot express it. If it were not for my mother I would have died from disease and neglect. If it were not for my sister Allyson I would have never reconnected with myself on a social level at all and, if it were not for you and Michael, I would have had no hope for friendship left in the world. This is true in most every sense.

    Now I am more healthy, more connected, more optimistic and more happy than I have ever been, and it came from the work I have done. I wanted it, finally, and here it is. We are speaking, loving, expressing! Michael and I are creating, planning, hopeful that life will bring us the excitement of creation! I am in love with a reality that, while harsh at times and always a daily effort to manage my bipolar disorder, is more directly and fully realized, a life where ‘needing’ others has been replaced by ‘wanting’ others. Freedom. Love. Direction. Acceptance.

    After ten years of self-imposed exile, I return to the world with something to say, with something to contribute and with real and true acceptance both of the past and the present. I practice DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) in which one of the most important practices is Radical Acceptance, which is this:


    Freedom from suffering requires ACCEPTANCE from deep within of what is. Let yourself go completely with what is. Let go of fighting reality.

    ACCEPTANCE is the only way out of hell. Pain creates suffering only when you refuse to accept the pain. Deciding to tolerate the moment is ACCEPTANCE.

    To ACCEPT something is not the same as judging it good.

    Acceptance of reality as it is requires an act of CHOICE. You have to make an inner COMMITMENT to accept. The COMMITMENT to accept does not itself equal acceptance; it just turns you toward the path and is but the first step.

    You have to turn your mind and commit to acceptance OVER AND OVER AND OVER again. Sometimes you have to make the commitment many times in the space of a few minutes.

    Radical Acceptance is a rather Buddhist approach, I think. I also practice Mindfulness training, a godsend if ever I found one, and these two things along with regular talk therapy and medication turned me from suicidal ideation to being, if nothing else, able to look forward to what I want to create in life. And I do not harbor ill will to anyone, not even Benjamin.

    I would love to hear what you think of my book Devolving in Eden. You can, with a good-sized monitor if you have one, follow the link to the book on My Bipolar Life’s menu, and open it as a preview and read the entire book (it’s too expensive to buy!). I did the entire book while almost comatose and suicidal – just ask my sister Allyson of my condition when I wrote it, she’ll tell you! – but look at what I did, creatively speaking, under those conditions.

    The entire staff at UCONN Psychiatry are amazed at how I did that and I think it is (in speaking of the poetry) a remarkable feat myself [Jim then pats himself on the back and laughs]. It is the foreword of the book that really expresses what I have done and the attitude I had. And now I look back at it, see the pain and the intensity – and then realize that as you near the end of the book, the tone changes dramatically toward hope even though at the time, I had none. None at all.

    But change, the kind of which I speak, has its price and one must pay the ferryman to bring one’s soul over the River Styx. I struggle, make no mistake, but there is something I thought was dead, and that is the ability to know myself more fully as a person who, in spite of pain, in spite of fear and its debilitation and paralyzing affect, brings forth to the world the one thing that he most wishes for everyone and the very world itself – love.

    A journey of this kind, so personal, so intimate, so brutal is something I wish on no one. Or everyone. I can’t decide. But the return of the people I love in my life and the happiness it brings me – most especially you and Michael – makes me grateful to the universe that I had a chance to change, saw the path and went through the fire to find the jewels, for the jewels shine when you place the light upon them. Even though you’ve always known that the jewels are there and only needed to refocus your light. I’m a jewel, too, forged in the pressures and fires beneath, and come out of it rough and rugged but still, I glitter given the chance.

    Love you

  3. Can’t wait to read your book! I could feel it in the shadows! I’m old fashioned though. Your signature sparkling atop an organic page as I advance, leafing along the way is my heart’s desire. I’ve been reading your blogs, but have been looking forward to starting at the beginning–for all the obvious, delectable catch-up reasons. This nose & biological sensory concoction is not prone to missing a single petal poking out on this trail. I know you’ll get a kick out of the tone I set launching my own blog. Starts with Mother’s Day. H-m-m-m-m-m. So many updates touched upon above are so special. More soon! West Coast Love!

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