The Climb

I’ve fallen off the wagon.

Well, not just fallen off.

I imagine I look like I’m from a Tarantino film, being blasted off the back of the wagon with a shotgun, rising again, bloody but resolved, chasing along in the dust cloud as the wagon trundles off into the sunset. I know that unless I catch up to that wagon and climb back on, I’m going to be left in the desert for the buzzards to pluck my eyes.

During February I ran myself utterly ragged. At the time, I thought I was making all the right decisions. I was smashing it at the gym, some days going twice a day. Up at 4:30am for a 45 minute cardio sesh before catching my morning train, then after working, smashing another 45 minutes. I was eating well, and felt like I was making progress. I was going absolutely crazy with the amount of cardio I was doing, and I finally broke through the 170kg barrier that I’d been struggling with since before Christmas. My most active day, according to my Fitbit, was something ridiculous like 258 active minutes.

Then I got sick. I’d been torturing my body to the extent that my immune system just packed up and left town. I left work early one Wednesday and said to my boss, “I’ll see you tomorrow!” Like all I needed was a good night’s sleep.

I woke up the next day like Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine had face-fucked me with his adamantium claws and tore my throat to shreds.

(I mean that’s not such a bad way to go but. . .)

So I marched off to the doctor and he pretty much laughed in my face when I told him what had been going on for the last six months. He said that losing 30kgs in six months isn’t just stupid, but dangerous. That kind of loss can damage the body, as it doesn’t know how to adapt to such a rapid change. Pushing myself that hard was dangerous in the long-term.

I asked him whether he thought I’d be okay for work the next day, which prompted yet another raucous guffaw.

So that was that. I went home, binged Shameless on Netflix for the next four days, and fell back into bad habits. I couldn’t exercise. Stupidly, I tried going for walks, which ended up with me in coughing fits on street corners before returning home with my tail between my legs. I had a ‘fuck it’ day. I drank iced coffee, ate a packet of chips, smashed some chocolate, and had a quick, unhealthy dinner of something utterly atrocious from CostCo. Probably Mac & Cheese bites or some other equally terrible junk.

The ‘fuck it’ day turned into a ‘fuck it’ week. The ‘fuck it’ week has been going on for about three weeks now. For the first time since starting this whole journey, I’ve gained weight. I’m currently at 171.3kgs, so I’ve put on three kilos. Purely based on how little I’ve been taking care of myself, I’m surprised it hasn’t been more.

Over the last few days I’ve been trying to understand why I backslid, and why it was so easy to fall back into those bad habits.

All it took was a little emotional turmoil. Nothing that really matters compared to the other things I’ve survived in the last twelve months, but still enough to knock me off course. It was a combination of that emotional upheaval and falling ill which subconsciously made me reach back towards comforts I’ve been long dependent on.

It wasn’t until Sunday afternoon, when I was having a particularly low mental health day, that I started really thinking about things.

It was one of those ‘close the curtains and don’t talk to anyone’ kind of days. I was wondering what the fuck was the point of it all. I’d been working my arse off, making all the right choices, and I had ended up sick and depressed anyway. So why even put in the effort? That old feedback loop was rattling around, gaining volume, and I needed to drown it out.

I find video games meditative. Whether it be through the comfort of a satisfying and familiar gameplay loop (The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth/Diablo 3/Overwatch), or getting lost in a beautiful, expansive world (Skyrim/Horizon: Zero Dawn), I find that I can reflect on events and assemble my thoughts easier when there is something to occupy my hands.

I popped Uncharted 4 into my Playstation and resolved myself to finally finish the game. I loved it when it was first released, but I never got around to actually seeing the credits roll. I don’t know why, but I’m glad I put it down and decided to pick it back up this weekend. It was exactly what I needed.

I was at Chapter 20, which was only a couple of hours from the end. Nathan Drake (& friends) are at the pointy end of their adventure, where the end is in sight. There comes a time when Drake has to go out on his own, and in that moment, he’s chasing something. And all he has to follow is the footsteps left by a ghost.

There was a point when Drake jumped over a chasm, only to have the ledge crumble apart beneath his grip. He fell, and just managed to catch himself on a ledge below. Despite the fact that many of these scripted moments had happened before, my breath caught in my chest. For a second I thought the adventure was over, but through Drake’s desperation to survive, he managed to hold on.

I navigated the crumbling cliff wall until I felt like I was safe. I put the controller down, closed my eyes, and took a breath. When I looked back up, I saw Drake hanging from the edge of a cliff by his fingertips. Beyond him was a beautiful vista overlooking mountain peaks, valley and underneath it, a vast ocean. And all that kept Drake from falling to his death was the will to survive.

I took a screenshot. This screenshot.


I’m going to use it to remind me that sometimes the best you can do is hold on, and wait for the fear to pass. Wait until you’re ready to face the challenge ahead, and when the time comes, keep climbing. The ledge may fall, and you may fall with it, but as long as you have the tools to overcome the obstacles ahead, you just need to keep moving forward. Sometimes it’s by inches, sometimes by miles.

I’ve been falling for the past three weeks. The ledge crumbled. But I’m hanging on, and the time has come to start climbing again. I have the necessary tools, and I know the pitfalls I need to avoid. It’s time to roll up the sleeves, soldier on, and take care of business.

Towards the end of the game, there is an encounter in which the player is thrown into a completely new experience, which I found myself vastly unprepared for. The whole sequence is incredibly unforgiving, and it forces the player to understand the mechanics and adapt, or die. It took me half a dozen times to get through it. It took a change in thought process, and a while to get accustomed to the rhythm in which the action took place, for me to triumph.

That’s life, man. Just when you find your feet again and stand tall on steady ground, unexpected shit is just going to fly at you when you least expect it.

You have two choices. Adapt, or die.


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