I’m going to begin with a hats-off to myself, via a bit of news that is seemingly irrelevant to this piece, but I’ll pick it up later on and weave it in like magic. Promise.
A sensible thing happened this week, and it wasn’t the fiscal cliff compromise: My evil twin, Andrew Sullivan, was either booted out by Tina Brown at The Daily Beast, or he didn’t renew his contract on purpose, which seems unlikely to this Sully cynic. He’s now going to charge for his content and go his merry way with his pooches and staff of seven. Given the trouble Tina has had this year with Newsweek ceasing print publication and other internal upheavals—not to mention Sully’s embarrassing, unnecessary meltdown after Obama’s first debate, which singlehandedly un-pundited the super-blogger once and for all—I have a feeling he was a vanity case that could no longer be supported.
As a content creator, I wish Sully well, I really do. He’s a smart guy, often misguided in his opinions, so blinkered in his observations that he is blinded (not a good trait for a pundit), not to mention as hysterical a queen as queens can get, but he works hard, thinks harder and deserves a measure of success. I’m also sure this experience will transform him and balance him out. Eventually.
So, in addition to my slogan, “Shoot your heroes,” I add another: Deflate all divas. It’s for their own good.
It goes without saying you should be moderate in your excesses, so I’m not going to posit the usual resolutions for New Years. There will be no calls from me to quit smoking or drinking, or enjoinders to go to the gym. I just assume that most Gheys who read this blog work out to some extent, and if they don’t then they simply have no intention of getting laid (apologies to those who might be physically incapacitated). As for the others, exercise is the only fountain of youth; it produces human growth hormone naturally, so it’s up to you. Frankly, if I didn’t train most days of the week, I’d feel ill.
Resolutions are generally about self-improvement, the correction of perceived defects in behavior. I’m going to stick with that idea, but try to be more philosophical or esoteric about my suggestions.
Many Gheys tend to stay little boys for longer than Str8s; there’s nothing that knocks the kid out of you like having children, and the pervasive culture in Homolandia is youth-oriented. It wasn’t until I learned how to box that I truly felt like a man, which is to say I stayed a boy until I was thirty-nine. I’d been working out for a long time, the body was in good shape, fighting the sag from the drag of gravity reasonably well, but it wasn’t until I started smacking leather bags and other people around—and got smacked around myself a bit—that I dispelled a number of fears and demons, many of which weren’t inborn but had been instilled by my rather dark childhood in a gilded world.
“Being hit is exhausting,” a workout partner of mine once observed. Indeed, boxing/kickboxing/MMA is a formidable way to train not just because of the physical intensity, but because of the focus it takes to avoid getting hit. Don’t worry: Unless you stumble on a fighting class for sado-masochists, you’re not unlikely to get hurt—that’s what all the padding is for on the helmets and gloves.
I strongly advocate this for Gheys and women; we were on the run or cowered for centuries, but now we are standing our ground and demanding our place, and there’s a lot of evil out there that just don’t sit right with. If you are in an area of the world that is, politely speaking, not as sophisticated as others, then I strongly advocate training up with the fighting.
It’s the best confidence-booster there is, in my experience. You are imprinting all of those Deepak Chopra positive affirmations into your body’s DNA, so that you understand them on a physical level. Thoughts are flighty, but altering your physical reactions to the world around you can change everything.
“I saw you on the street the other day,” a friend observed once. “You walk like you own the world.”
“I don’t?” I replied in mock surprise. Which seems entirely arrogant unless you take it in context: I was sleeping on an inflatable mattress in this friend’s spare bedroom rent-free and was so broke that I’d just pawned half my preciouses, as Gollum might say.
The reason I was walking like that is I’d recently taken up boxing at this sweat-soaked, hardcore centre in London that made the one in Million Dollar Baby look like an Equinox, and my reaction to the world around me had changed. I now felt I could meet any challenge head on.
But I’ve noticed lately that middle age is starting to stoop me slightly, which sort of whittles away my ownership stake in the world, but I only feel that when I catch myself in the mirror or a street window. We all have ownership over the space our bodies inhabit; it’s a piece of personal real estate that cannot be bought or sold, but which can be improved and renovated.
Like fighting, proper posture changes who you are. Don’t want to start that muay Thai class and risk a bruise or two? Then a yoga class once a week should work. Also, try improvising a girdle/cummerbund for your waist to wear under your clothes made from wrap-around fabric that is light enough not to be noticed, but strong enough that you’ll feel it. Wear that for a couple of weeks, and your physical behavior will change, as will your attitude to yourself and the way people perceive you.
Between the standing tall cummerbund stuff and this diet tip, you’re, like, James, I don’t read you for this soccer-mom-blogger bullshit. And you’re quite right, but indulge me for a second.
Just as much as excesses should be taken in moderation, being overweight is gross. We know that. There is no excuse for fat. And if you’re fat, I’m sorry (well, not really), but you’re probably beating yourself up about it already, so I’m just joining the smackdown with my fancy boxer moves.
I lost twenty pounds last year on the Paleo Diet, or my modified version of it. Back in May, I was watching our future fitness guru Adam von Rothfelder over a few meals in L.A. and questioned him about his diet, and made it my own. It is so simple: he eats grains/starches once or twice a week—which doesn’t mean one or two days a week, it means two meals—and even then in moderation. Also, very little dairy and processed oil.
The thing about this isn’t just that I’ve lost weight, it’s that I feel so elated a lot of the time. I have far more energy than I had pre-diet. Whenever I had a sandwich or pasta, I felt sluggish afterwards, which means that having toast in the morning was a terrible way to kick off the day because I was slowing myself down. To compensate, I was drinking these turbo booster drinks before the gym that I dubbed my “atomic man juice,” which weren’t only expensive, they made my skin tingle strangely and must have been as toxic as they looked and tasted.
Now I just have a small cup of coffee before my workout, if I really need it; otherwise, I power through it twice as hard as I did before.
When I talked to a nutritionist friend about this elated energy—which isn’t some manic mood swing, but quite consistent—and the lack of doldrums, he told me that I was in a state of ketosis similar to that brought on by the infamous Aitken’s Diet.
He also asked me if I was prone to rages now, and at first I said no, but when I thought about it later on I realized that I was indeed raging more strongly than usual at people or situations, albeit in my mind. The fact that I’m somewhat reclusive because of my work as a writer means I have few interactions with people on a daily basis, and the variables in my life are relatively contained. So just be careful of ketosis in that regard, especially if you have a fast-paced, high-stressed job in something like film production or professional cooking. You’ll likely blow the ol’ gasket more often.
Ambition is the fuel for accomplishment. But life’s a bitch we’re all married to, and she can grind you down with her relentless nagging and criticism, and mulish refusal to move forward, especially on things she knows are important to you. In fact, the more important they are, the more mulish she can be. Even if we accomplish some or most of our goals, the achievement rarely leaves us feeling the way we thought it would.
It sounds trite (because it is), but the only real failure is not trying. And things like renal or heart failure are real failure, too. But most failure is relative and a matter of perspective. For the most part, you should adjust your measures of success, and maybe shift your priorities. From my perspective, you haven’t really succeeded until you’ve lost everything, but lived through the experience. Then again, I’m the hero in my own narrative, and I’m fixin’ to keep it like that.
Indeed, I’ve been the Next Big Thing for so long it’s become something I joke about. As often as I’ve wanted to throw in the towel, the fact is you aren’t allowed to give up until you’re in a hospice on a morphine drip, crapping your diapers for the second time in your life on your way out the door. In which case, the most successful move you could make is to give up.
In the meantime, if something isn’t working out, some project isn’t advancing, there are myriad options, which include reworking that something to better suit the circumstances, even if it means waiting for a more optimum time. But abandonment is only for when the ship has sunk beneath the waves, and even then you should look for another vessel, not sink yourself.
The important thing is to find activities that keep your enthusiasm levels up. And this is what I mean by renewing your vows to yourself. Many of us lose our vision, give up our dreams, which is when the dreams give up on us. There are so many different scenarios, different paths, viable options. Do this: step outside yourself and imagine your life as the plot to a story. If you’re the hero, where can you take yourself next if you could control your destiny the way a writer crafts a tale?
The indie film world is still recovering. We don’t know where it’s headed: up, down, sideways. It was a crapshoot during the best of times, and now it’s pretty fucked. I dedicated my life to it, only to watch that segment of the industry collapse and all but vanish. So I’m also writing children’s books now, and I love it. I am fulfilling my need to tell stories by rewriting my own narrative. The first step was to tell that colossal ego of mine that was so tied to what I was doing to fuck off. All content is equal, who cares if it’s not on the big screen? That really freed up the possibilities as to where I could go from there.
Even if you have to reinvent yourself and your work, do whatever it takes to recapture that enthusiasm you once had, assuming you’ve lost it in the first place. If, like me, you really haven’t, carry on.
Other than learning how to fight, I’d have to say that the other game changer for me was what I’m doing this very moment, blogging. And that’s where I loop back to Andrew Sullivan.
I started blogging for a number of reasons, one of which was to keep my sanity during the roughest patch of my life two years ago. As I started writing about current situations, I discovered a few things about myself, namely that I am right a lot of the time (not always right, that would be not only boring, but delusional), a statement that you must take in context: I was raised by highly critical parents to believe I am constantly wrong, and I bought that hook, line and stinker.
Now that I was putting it all down in writing, I even realized that I had political experience worth sharing, and I’d always eschewed politics, mainly because of my father’s involvement with the GOP and what I witnessed firsthand while working for him when I was first starting out. The fact that I was being appreciated by complete strangers for my insights, not to mention the times all through the election cycle I called it right, really helped polish my inner mirror and dispel those sneering demons in my ego that were installed by my parents.
One person I was right about early on was my evil twin Andrew Sullivan, and the fact he’s really a false pundit, not to mention a flip-flopper who is wrong more often than he is right. I might have seemed confident taking swipes at him in these pages, but Sully is a great sage anointed by public opinion and Queen Tina herself, whereas I’m the never-been Next Big Thing in a small apartment in Hollywood scribbling racy smack about him. The point is my smack was right, albeit irreverent: continually calling him a ‘bottom bitch,’ which every Ghey knows references his HIV status and preference for barebacking, was perhaps not the most diplomatic or professional way of tackling Sully, but it was fucking funny to me at the time I wrote it.
I am the last person who needs to be fully self-expressed or come out of his shell—I am an extrovert’s extrovert—but if I have felt liberated and vindicated and had a new angle on myself after starting a blog, then I know it will work for others, too. And who cares if only a few people read it? It’s the act of writing, of putting something out there, of talking to yourself in your inner mirror in an external way, of reducing your thoughts to their proper components that counts. I totally get now why journals are used in therapy.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a blog, either. Just say It somehow. Sing It, draw It, build It. You don’t need to sound like Diana Vreeland, not everything has to be a masterpiece.
In fact, take the stress off and aim for fucking up, for “failure.” Be as big a mess as you can be. Perfectionism is a mind-killer. Just keep doing it. You’ll be surprised how good you’re gonna get, and how much better you’re gonna feel.