Today is day EIGHT of the Oxygen Magazine fitness challenge. I woke up to a mouth that felt like it had been sucking on a sock through slumber. This didn’t just happen in the morning. I had the same experience in the middle of the night, along with toes that started to turn inward as my feet and calves seized without enough fluid. I can not seem to get my body hydrated to a healthy level. Even now I am drinking water, but my mouth is still parched. It feels like I am drinking sand.

My body is changing rapidly and my weight is plummeting so fast I am now sure that I am not eating enough. Yesterday I had a ground turkey stir-fry around noon, a protein shake after my workout at five in the evening, and then I chomped on an over cooked chicken breast that I had pre-cooked in the fridge. I have all my weekly meat cooked and ready for fast consumption, but I prefer my vegetables to be freshly prepared so I do not have any full ready to eat meals.

The fitness challenge participants were given full meal plans to follow along with their workout routines. I know beyond any doubt that the nutritional element is most important, even more important that pushing weight or trying to work off excess calories. I am aware and I am also doing my best. Most days I feel lucky to have eaten at all. Food is not something I want to bother with right now. Nothing tastes good, chewing is a chore, and I have other things I’d rather be doing until… I need to eat. Yes, I am working on that and my choices are coming closer to being in inline with the program I am still not fully into.

This past week I have been writing with fever and abandon. I’ve written so much that just this morning a dear friend called to say, “I am following. I am trying to keep up with your blogs, but you write so many I can’t get to them fast enough.”

I explained to her that I am writing my first book and that she will be able to read my blogs in a collection later. She was concerned she has been missing out on fitness tips and all the knowledge I am gleaning by participating in the contest. “Are you blogging all of the workout routines? Did you post the full meal plan they gave you? I really wanted to follow the program.”

My answer was an immediate NO. “I am concerned about the ethics of streaming content that so many other people had to pay for. I know that some of my friends wanted to join, but they did not have the money. I didn’t have the money to spare either. I invested in the program because I saw it as a business investment.”

“A business investment” she asked. “How is a fitness challenge going to help any of us in business?”

I laughed, hanging up shortly after my reply. “My body is my business. I need to build a body that can fortress my million dollar life. The first step is my own core and center.”

After we hung up I began checking my messages on Facebook. People are reading and following my story and many of those same people are reaching out to me with concern over the candid and forthright way in which I write and talk about the real of my very real life. The biggest fear being that I am inevitably damaging my photography business by putting all of my personal business out on the internet. “Maybe you should write with a pen name?” “Maybe you should have your blog on a different website? People who are looking for photography are looking for photography. People may be turned off when they stumble upon an open book peep show. Some people may not agree with your writing. Can you keep the two separate? Your personal life should be your personal life and your business is your business. I am really worried that you are causing more harm than good.”

I couldn’t agree more. The public is totally correct and my position stands. My name is Amber Garibay and this is my true life. I am an honest and forthright person. I am extremely proud of the human I am. I stand behind the quality of my soul and I live life with integrity because that is the woman my father expected I should be. My dad told me, “Don’t expect me to love you just because you are my daughter. I won’t. If you go out and become what I despise I will not love you. I will not own you.”

My father does not love my writing, and he especially hates that I carry a rubber chicken around with me. He is private and cynical. He is wise to the world and he does not want the world to cut me down. The world will cut me down. It has cut me down. I have been shamed and humiliated as a writer. Yes, of course my business suffered when I first came out of the closet as my true self. People did not know what the heck was happening and much of my content in the beginning was so raw it was vulgar. I am a children and family photographer and I was writing about marriage, sex, drugs and thugs, and who the hell is Amber really? People were completely freaked out. I stood my ground and then there was hardly anyone left standing with me. The entire city turned their back on me, or at least that is the way it felt back then. I went from being one of the most successful photographer’s in town, to snubs and “I’ll take my business else where.”

I was alienating powerful people and ruining connections that could server a higher purpose. Once upon a time I was friends with a politician. I didn’t know he was in government when we first met. I was the photographer for a father daughter dance at a local high school a few years back. He came through my line and then a few weeks later I checked my mailbox to the surprise of seeing his face on a 4×10 postcard. The gentleman was running for port commissioner. I didn’t know what that job entailed or whether he should qualify, but I decided I would vote for him because at least I could place an identity to the candidate. Most of the time when I vote I feel like I’m choosing between the lesser of two corruptions, but this guy I had a good feeling about. I could tell that he wasn’t crooked.

He lost the election to a woman. I lost most of my respect for him then. My soul is fickle that way. I figure that if he lost to that woman he most certainly would lose with me. I decided that I must have misjudged him and then one day I ran into him at the gym. I was working as a personal trainer (an added career) and he was glued to cardio. Of course he was not interested in my services. What man who knows it all would be? Instead, he kept in touch for casual conversation and a friendly hello. He was just like most men at the gym. He liked to smile and chat, but even if he was going to hire a personal trainer it would not be a woman.

He did hire me as a photographer however, and in the course of that transaction I was delighted to have had conversations that were both enriched, enlightened, and profoundly educated. He was an easy and fast friend in my mind and so it was that I made the choice to ask him to be a mentor.

Except the meeting I arranged with him did not go as planned. It was such a disaster that I left the table visibly shaken and near full tears. He was not going to be a mentor. He was not a friend. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing and he had been judging me all along. The first thing he asked me about was my boyfriend. “How are things going with him?”

I smiled and it was beaming, “Things are amazing. We are doing really well, except for the weight I’ve been putting on. We’ve been snacking a lot, spending too much movie time on the couch.”

His tone changed dramatically after that. I tried to turn the conversation to business and my ten million dollar plan. I started to explain a scholarship program I am working on, but as I was talking he cut the idea down. “Why do a scholarship? Why not just pay them cash for referrals.” I started to explain and then he cut me down again, “You need to stop worrying about all that other stuff and put your focus on creating immediate cash flow.”

I was happy to have his critical thinking and I was hoping that he was capable of recognizing my own, but he was not. Instead, he began to place blame and he did so in such a way that I felt betrayed. He said, “Why do you think you do not have the business you used to have? You are one of the best photographers in town. Why aren’t people coming to you?”

I shrugged my shoulders. I was half joking when I said, “I don’t know. Maybe the whole town hates me.”

He did not shoot the idea down. “Do you think they have reason to hate you? What do you think people think of your blog? I’ve read your writing. It makes me uncomfortable.”

I was completely thrown. I hadn’t been expecting any of what was being dished and I was surprised because he never made it known before that he had read my writing or that he had issue with it. All at once I was in arms and no longer smiling. “What exactly are you trying to say?” I asked him. “Are you trying to imply that people hate me because I am a writer?”

He folded his arms across the broad of his chest  and then he moved his eyes to scan the room, which was packed with people grabbing lunch. “I understand that writing is something that probably makes you feel better. I get that it’s therapeutic and all, but people do not be exposed to it. Let me give you an example,” he went on to say, “Let’s just imagine that I really love to masturbate. I not only love to  masturbate I love other people to watch me. What do you think would happen to me if I walked into this restaurant in the middle of lunch rush hour and I pulled my d*ck out to shoot a load on the middle of floor? How do you think society would treat me if I did that?”

I sat across from him in horror. I wanted to pick up a knife and stab him in the face for his vile analogy of my passion. I was so full of rage that I began to cry as I was sitting there because my soul had suddenly become so dark and twisted that I felt like he was right and I was repulsive. “Fair enough,” I said to him with as much composure as I could muster. “What exactly do you suggest I do?”

He was insistent, “I suggest that you keep your personal life personal and your business your business.”

I was stone now. I looked through him like he was no longer there because he wasn’t. “Thank you for that solid advice sir. May I ask you how often you generally have family portraits taken and can I count on your business again?”

He was a bit startled to see how fast I changed pace, but he extended an olive branch when he said, “I’d like to have them taken once a year and of course I would hire you as a photographer again.”

I sat back and swung my legs out of the booth as I stood up for freedom, “Perfect. I am counting on your support. I will give you a call next year.”

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