Isn’t it amazing how a collection of small events can push us to a breaking point? This past weekend I attended the Virginia International Auto Show, which is an annual event for my mother and I. This year however, my lovely bride came along, and given her photography skills, I turned the picture taking duties over to her while Mom and I simply enjoyed the show.
Now my wife taking pictures of me at different events is nothing new, and me not liking the outcome of those photos is a similar situation. I’ve been overweight in varying degrees for virtually all of my adult life, and I know of very few people who truly like pictures of themselves. No matter what our size or shape, we are almost always our own worst critic.
I remember reading once that eating disorders are the most difficult to treat simply because the human body cannot survive without food. If someone has an addiction to smoking, drugs or alcohol, it can be treated as something the person can live without. I’m considering starting a treatment program for cheeseburgers and cookies, especially since they seem to be the two things that are sure to be my doom.
Ever since I undertook the ambitious task of writing a science fiction novel, I have been immersed in self-education of my craft. It took me writing roughly six chapters to realize just how far in over my head I truly was, and while training for three months to be a boiler operator on my job knocked me out of my writing groove, I have been trying to get myself re-launched in a more intelligent way.
Part of my educational reading has stressed how much the author should know and understand the subject matter he/she is writing about. This is paramount in any form of writing, but even more so in science fiction since the world your character lives in is unlike what we consider normal.
My central character is a race driver/car builder, and if there is one thing I’ve learned from my research it’s that the present day race driver is one of the most fit athletes in the world. Many other sports tax the human body with elevated heart rates and high adrenaline levels for short periods of time, but the racing driver, even though he is in a seated position, is subject to the kind of g-forces one might experience on the most white-knuckled rollercoaster in the world, yet he must remain mentally sharp and sustain that level for up to two hours. Imagine how much more intense that rollercoaster ride would be if one slip in your concentration could send the cars careening off the rails? Subsequently, the driver must train his body to tolerate extended periods of elevated heart rates, and strengthen his neck and upper body to withstand the tremendous g-forces of acceleration, hard braking, and high speed cornering.
All of this information sent my mind reeling, especially when I considered the fact that my fictional racing driver would be subject to the kind of forces felt by modern day fighter jet pilots, given my futuristic cars could hit the sound barrier on the long straights.
I have often read how both authors and actors (especially actors) will immerse themselves in the characters they seek to portray, and most often try their hand at the characters vocation to gain the proper experience. However, since I don’t see driving at Sebring or Le Mans anywhere on my radar, or for that matter hitching a ride with the Blue Angels when they come to town, I’ll have to gain my understanding in other ways. The thought then occurred to me that the first order of business should be my personal fitness. Even if I had the opportunity to do either of those aforementioned items, I would presently be in no condition to handle either of them.
Earlier today, I was looking at the pictures my wife had taken at the car show, and as usual, I could not find one shot of myself that I would be willing to put a personal stamp of approval on. I’ve read that the first stage of any disorder is denial, and I find it amazing how one can look in a mirror and have the silent thought run through your mind, “It doesn’t look too bad”…or, “I’m not in such bad shape considering…”
Considering what exactly? Considering that every time I see a photo of myself I consider that I don’t like what I see? Considering that I conveniently forget about that personal disapproval when I look at a menu in a restaurant? Is the statement, “the camera adds 10 pounds,” supposed to be some kind of rationale to think I don’t really look like that?
I guess this struck home like a brick on the skull this afternoon when I sat down to watch an episode of my favorite television show, “Top Gear.” The mythical “tame racing driver” known only as “The Stig” has become kind of a quasi-superhero of mine. On the show he rips around the test track in some of the most exotic and powerful machines on the face of the Earth, and to be him would be a dream job for any pure gearhead.
In this particular episode a bloated, pear shaped man was pointed out in the studio audience, sporting a t-shirt that his gut was peeking out from under, that was emblazoned with the words, “I am The Stig.”
I took note of this just as I had popped another Girl Scout cookie into my mouth, and I glanced down to notice I had consumed 2/3 of the box. The sudden vision of me turning into this man I saw on television almost made me ill, let alone being anywhere closer to becoming The Stig or any other racing driver for that matter.
The bigger question will remain; will this shocking personal moment be enough to overcome the next urge for a cheeseburger or a plate of French fries? Can the desire to become a shadow of my fictional race driver not only drive me to a higher fitness level, but spur my writing juices as well?
All questions that only time can answer, but then no worthy goal ever came without its share of dedication or hard work.
– T. August Green