Salad/French Fries, Fat/Skinny, Running/Whiskey, Angels/Demons

  For as long as I can remember my angels have been paying off the ever accruing debt of my demons. Sure, the metaphor is dramatic, but nevertheless it is true. It is true in matters great and small. Relatively speaking they are all small but as they are mine I find them to be capable of carrying great import, to me at least.

I’m the type of guy that would have the salad to make up for the fries. The fault in this logic is evident, even to me, yet I persist. I’ve asked myself why on many occasions and the answer that keeps coming to the fore is that I’m culturally catholic and my need to repent is ingrained in me so deep that it actually is rooted in an emotional place that is capable of taking over my rational thought if it feels I’m slacking in my responsibilities, which it seems to think are somehow wide ranging and crucial. 

When I was in college I fell in love. It was intense and possessive and obsessive and unsustainable and  destined for failure and altogether wonderful. Eventually, being good college kids in the 90’s we began to do that which you are supposed to do, secularly speaking, though it is entirely contraindicated by my cultural heritage. We started a sexual relationship. Well, being obsessive and young and Irish, my enthusiasm was to be admired, if enthusiasm is a trait that can be said to be a positive one in such an edeavour. It’s usually not. Anyway, I was a responsible partner, or at least I’d become one once I learned what it was a woman needed from the exchange. To paraphrase an old movie in which Alec Baldwin plays a blue collar, widowed dad of two sons in Rhode Island, I understood that ‘makin sex is like chinese food. It’s not over til you both get your cookies.’ 

Well, the only way for me to accomplish this in those days and in that relationship was for me to go about the work of assisting her to where she was going before falling over that curb myself as soon as I’d worked my way to making the light green. For a kid, in retrospect, I admire my fair mindedness. That said it couldn’t have felt good for her when upon completion each time I didn’t say something like…. ‘uhhh, uhhh, oh my god! That was AMAZING!’ I was incapable of being that present. Nope. All I ever said was, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.’ I don’t know if I’m getting the exact phrasing or even the cadence right. Regardless, I feel like the sentiment is intact. I’d apologize for orgasming. It was spontaneous. In fact when she finally told me it didn’t make her feel good, it made her feel bad, I was kind of surprosed. Somehow I thought my apologies were a form of absolution, I guess? For who I don’t know. For what even. Whatever, I thought somehow my taking ownership of the disaster that was sleeping with me was appreciated. 

Well, clearly that relationship had to end so I asked her to marry me and moved to New Hampshire with her. That did it. We lived together for about a year and I finally said what we both knew, we shouldn’t get married, about halfway through. The next six months things got real weird. Also, it was like the slowest trainwreck any relationship has ever had. It was so dramatic and awful and there I was thinking I was being a good guy. What a dick. 

The reality of my angels and demons is that they live apart. They rarely cross paths like that entirely made up french fries and salad thing I was talking about earlier. The reality is more akin to my weight, my body, well my emotional eating habits that have mellowed and left me middle aged and schlubby. 

When I went away to school I gained the freshman 85. Yep. In one school year. Probably in about 5 months actually and then I plateaud I guess you’d say. Lifestyle didn’t change but my skin, literally stretching at the neck, arm pits, waist and thighs just decided that this was the weight at which my body could sustain my horrible decision making. I was huge. This from a fairly competent athlete up to the time I failed of the college basketball team. I should note, this failure was one in a long line of academic follies. I don’t count my academic record in my listing of demon inspired misbehaviors. School wasn’t for me. Ever. Dropped out of kindergarten, literally. Never got better. 

Anyway, back to lard ass me. I was an emotional wreck. Depressed, needy, stand offish and desparate for attention. I was a real treat. So I drunk. A lot. And ate a lot of pizza and mozzerella sticks and everything else. I was a hot mess. It lasted a couple years. At which point I turned it around. Long runs every day. Heatlhy meals. Straight responsibility son. I was being guided by my angels. It was good. It had to be. I was motivated by a level of self loathing you find when you look in the mirror and see a selfish, fat, disgusting human, one who misled anyone who would listen and would mock anyone without hesitation out of supressed rage. Serously. At one point a kindly friend a year my junior, Kat, told me, no one hangs out with you because you’re so mean and sarcastic. Aytime anone says anything you’ve got some wise ass comment. You’re kinda mean. Kat was a kind person. She wasn’t being mean. In fact she was having empathy. Her telling me this made me change for the better immediately.

Before long I’d gotten back to earning my obligatory 2.0, I’d trimmed my weight back down 65 pounds and I managed to start to feel decent and presentable. It is always good when the angels are winning anew. But after a while the angels forget to stop. At one point I got to a place where I ate nothing but pears for an entire summer and dropped a hundred pounds from my max. I had a lollipop head. A summer I worked at a camp for adults with special needs (a summer job that became a passion and a career) and my schedule was basically daily from 8 AM or so (I was management early. It was the one place I fit perfectly. Still love it.) to 1 AM. Then I’d drink myself blind alone in a chair with a VCR and mostly the same movies on a loop. occasionally some rentals. Once I’d prepaid for my evening sin I was afforded all the mercy I needed to finally give in to wickedness and fun. Which for me meant sitting alone with a big bottle of whiskey and a can of lemonade and killing both. Nightly. Did this or some form of this for at least a decade.

I’m an extremist of sorts. I thrive in all ways on the extremes. Its a thing I used to lament and try to regulate. Try to stop myself from being myself. But as time’s gone on and as I’ve reclaimed some of my locus of control I’ve come to have less struggle with accepting myself for who I am. It’s been a huge relief and ultimately lead to some stability. Some sense of normalcy. But thankfully it’s usually only short lived. I can’t take middling. The bottom most point of the pendulum swing frightens me. If I come to while resting in that spot closest to where I’d rest if I stopped swinging entirely I always fear I’ve stopped and this is it. Normalcy and motionlessness from here on out. It’s scary when there’s no turmoil either internal or external. Creepy. It’s like being dead.

Where is that whiskey?

Author: joejmedler

Joe Medler lives in New Jersey with his wife, who is universally understood to be far too good for him, and his two young sons, who are far too smart for him. His work has been featured on MamaLode, The Original Bunker Punks and Sammiches and Psych Meds. You can find more of his work at and follow him on Facebook at

2 thoughts on “Salad/French Fries, Fat/Skinny, Running/Whiskey, Angels/Demons”

  1. Enjoyed the read! Takes me back to my crazy uni days. I am a Hindu by religion, so even “my need to repent is ingrained in me so deep that it actually is rooted in an emotional place that is capable of taking over my rational thought if it feels I’m slacking in my responsibilities” 😉 Perhaps multiply this with 5!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Having children is a trip on our acceptance of ourselves, at least for me. My son is a reflection of everything positive and negative about me, but I’ve found that accepting and allowing myself to be imperfect has prompted him to highlight things that permit me to realize the amazing capacity I have in so many realms. It almost pushes away the voices that prevent me from taking risks out of fear of judgment…almost… But, in the end the judgment of others seems less important somehow. So often I find myself saying, “Why not,” these days, and diving head first into things I never considered before. I can’t explain it; maybe it’s because I’m home full-time with my son and don’t have the time or capacity to consider or revel in things unnecessary.

      I’m not sure when this happened. This part of me just appeared one day and decided to stay. While some fear persists, so much has vanished. I wonder if it’s because when I look at my growing little man, I see the world through his eyes before he understands the ugliness and general horrors of the world. As a toddler he laughs easily, loves freely, and enjoys so much without agenda; just because. Some day that won’t be there, at least not at the saturating level it is at the moment, but maybe if I learn to be just a bit like him, he won’t lose it from himself.

      Liked by 1 person

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