Friday, November 04, 2011
Hey, Esther. It's time we had a little talk.
Look, I get it...2011 was a rough year. You didn't lose a lot of weight and, for some reason, you want to count 2011 as a failure because of it. But I need you to stop that thinking right now. Seriously! RIGHT NOW!
All the time you groan when you hear other people talk about how far they've come and you think, "They've done better than me." Stop sulking! Don't you realize what you've accomplished? Don't you realize just how amazing you are?
Yesterday you spent almost an hour talking to a coworker you used to have very little in common with about, of all things, weight loss and fitness. This girl is much smaller than you. This should be totally easy for her. That's what you told yourself, anyhow. For some reason you got it in your head that you should be jealous of her because her path seemed so much easier. But, after talking to her, you realize that your struggles are so similar to hers it's eerie. You realize that she struggles with healthy choices just as much as you do. And you discovered that while she triumphs in areas you have yet to even attempt, you have things you do that still inspire her, things you've accomplished that she still fears. You're sitting in different boats, but they look just the same and while she's paddling mostly on the left side, and you mostly on the right, you're still headed in the same direction.
What's more...you actually let yourself be vulnerable in front of her yesterday. You admitted some of your failings and, to your surprise, she didn't smirk or laugh or gloat. She shared some of hers with you instead. And when she mentioned her inability to complete 30-Day Shred but her desire still to do it, you found a common connection and out popped the words, "Let's do it together!" Maybe you didn't expect her to take the bait. Maybe you expected her to back out so you felt you were safe in offering. But you knew there was that chance she would say yes. And she said yes...sorta. You see, like you she struggles with her body rebelling against what she wants. She told you reasonably, "I have to wait until my appointment Monday and see what's going on, but if I get the all clear, we're on."
So, it's out there. And you put it there. A December challenge of 30-Day Shred every single day for 30 days to round out 2011 with a bang. You immediately tried to bail on it. "Do you have to work out EVERY SINGLE DAY?! I like my rest days!!" But you walked away knowing that if she came back and said she got the all clear, you would do it...because you can do anything for 30 days. And because girls struggling together have to stick together!
I also want you to remember that yesterday you threw away half a piece of cake. You didn't want it. You tried to resist. You felt it was forced upon you and you used that excuse, but you still could've said no. Yeah, I got all that. You took the piece of cake. But you shouldn't beat yourself up over that. Instead, you should rejoice in the restraint you had to take the smallest piece, to eat only half throughout the course of an entire afternoon and to throw it away once you realized that the concentrated sugar in it was actually making you feel sick.
Do you know why it made you sick, Esther? Don't you see? You don't indulge in high sugar sweets all day every day like you once did. Sure, a piece of chocolate here, a piece of chocolate there, but you aren't the sugar queen you once were. You can't polish off half a sheet cake over the course of 2 days anymore because your body knows now what's good for it...and knows that cake isn't one of those things. Even the people at work joke about how you're going to get a sugar rush every time sweets are offered because they know that your diet isn't full of sugar. And when you watch them eat one or two pieces of cake and then wash it down with a Coke, you have to realize that you used to be right there next to them, joining in, downing another piece and reaching for another soda.
Did you control your calories 100% yesterday? Nope. Is that a reason to call yesterday a failure? Hell no! Don't you remember that you struggled over whether to go out to eat or not? Don't you remember that when you ordered your very favorite meatball sub, that you ate half and then waited - yes, waited - to see if you wanted any more? And you did want more. And you ate almost the entire thing. And then you stopped when you were done. You may have eaten more than your plan "allowed," but you didn't walk out of there in pain (like the Hubs did) from overeating. You left there full and satisfied and then went home and indulged in a nice, quiet bath.
You've spent your whole life being a planner. You have to-do lists that tell you that you need to make a to-do list. That's who you've always been. But who you also are is the girl that veers off the to-do list at least 3 times a week or more. What you learned this year, somehow, is how to veer off gracefully. How to substitute items so you could remain productive. Or, if you veered off completely, how to find your way back on track. That's such a valuable skill to have learned because you need to make the plan work for you if you want it to work for your life. Sure, there are things you can change about yourself - lots of things - but developing things that work around the essence of who you are and the habits you have is the key to maintaining a healthy way of life...and a more peaceful one at that.
Last night you actually spoke the words, "I'm in a good place right now." And you believed them. You really ARE in a good place right now...a place where you understand more who you are and what you want and how to go about merging those two things.
This year you learned how to alter childish fantasies into achievable realities. You are not going to be a ballerina, but you can shape your body into a flexible, dynamic, and powerful work of art. You are never going to have a good relationship with your father (or any relationship, for that matter), but you can develop and foster the relationships you do have and pull those you love closer to you. You are not going to be the stick thin girl that can eat everything she wants, but you can be a healthy, fit, and strong woman that eats whatever she wants in moderation, learning to fit it into your life so that you can still enjoy the things you love to eat without sacrificing the things you love to do. You'll never be the perfect mother, but you can shower your children with love, teach them responsibility, and mold them into healthy, successful young men...and then realize that you have to let them go and do what they're going to do with the lessons you've taught them.
You labeled this year "The Year of Adventures: Finding My Bliss" but you never realized how difficult the journey would be to discovering your true self...a true self you've kept locked inside in order to fit into the expectations of others. For 29 years you sacrificed who you are for who people wanted you to be. You tried (and so often failed) to constantly keep them happy. You did what they wanted, followed their dreams for you, and let their expectations of your future be your guide for what your life would become. But this year you finally broke free of that prison. You allowed yourself to say no when it didn't feel right, to sacrifice being the one that constantly made them happy so that you could have some happiness of your own. You let yourself be you without bowling them over, cutting them down, or pushing them away and you've come out of it a person who "Is more sure of herself than she ever has been before." (You've never spoken truer words, by the way.)
So stop telling everyone that this year sucked. Stop telling them it was a massive failure. Stop selling yourself short because you know that the world will do that for you enough times in your life.
Rejoice in the person you've come to love. - Yourself.
Rejoice in your accomplishments.
May I please remind you that since April of last year you have lost over 110 pounds!?
May I remind you that you've somehow battled your way out of the high 400's and are nearing the 200's with consistency?
May I remind you that you have trained yourself to become a runner, like you once told yourself you could?
Keep remembering the day you challenged your expectations. You may not remember the exact date or even the year, but you remember that still small voice in your head asking, "Well why CAN'T you be the girl that gets up and runs 5 miles? Who said you can't do that?"
Tomorrow I want you to wake up and be that girl. You can now because you've trained yourself to be. You've fought through injury, illness, and heartbreak. You've fought through the sheer pain of pushing a 300-pound body through the limits that most people would have placed upon it. Sometimes you think to yourself, "I shouldn't be able to do this." But you realize time and time again that you can. Should doesn't factor in. Impossible is just a word that people use when they're scared to imagine what they're capable of.
Tomorrow I want you to put on your running gear, find a safe place to run that inspires you, pack a water bottle or two for the road, and take off running. Five miles is the goal, and even if you can't make it. Even if your legs give out and you feel like puking at mile 2. Even if you realize that it's too soon, your body isn't ready, and you aren't able to make it. The one thing I do NOT want standing in your way is the mental word "impossible." Break the mental barrier and let your body take over. It will either be ready for it, or it won't, but you will never know what it's capable of if you refuse to allow it the freedom to surprise you.
And when the mental battle begins, I want you to remember a few things...
1. Run for the person you once were, who didn't think it was possible.
2. Run for the girl that once had a moment of brilliance and challenged those expectations.
3. Run for the little girl that was put into a box in the corner and denied love and friendship by the people that were supposed to give it freely...and then continued to repeat that by withholding love for herself from herself.
4. Run for the days when you felt like running but couldn't due to injury.
5. Run for your bruised toes and ugly toenails.
6. Run for the people who told you somewhere down the line that 300-pound people weren't built to run.
7. Run for the 200's you're about to see.
8. Run for a year full of surprises, both good and bad.
9. Run for the girl who is "more sure of herself than ever before."
10. Run for the woman who is in a good place in her life right now.
11. Run for your sister, who has the skill necessary to do so, but constantly battles a body that actually does rebel no matter how hard she resists.
12. Run for your grandmother, who, you know, would not be surprised at how well you're doing, but who would smile at you and simply tell you, "You done good."
13. Run for a grandfather who never stopped protecting you in his own way.
14. Run for your uncle, who can barely walk sometimes.
15. Run for the children who already believe that expectations can be expanded, broken, and pushed to the limit.
16. Run for the husband who never really saw it coming and, yet, somehow, always knew it would and always stood by you.
17. Run for the freedom of it all.
18. Run for the wind in your hair.
19. Run for the sweat that's earned because you're fit and active, not cast upon you by rolls of fat.
20. Run for your beautiful legs that are taking shape before your very eyes.
And if, for some reason, your body isn't ready to handle it. If, for some reason, you realize that you need to stop. Do not, for one second, think of it as a failure. Know that you are steps closer every day to that one question you posed so long ago...the one question that tipped the scales in your favor and made you believe in impossible dreams. "Why can't I be the girl that runs 5 miles?" Truth is, you can. It may take time. You may not get there tomorrow. But you know that you will get there. Because you started this as a girl who couldn't run 1/4 of a mile. You fought your way to a girl who couldn't run 1/2 a mile. You triumphed into a girl who couldn't run a mile. You battled the pain of a girl who couldn't run two miles. And you ran into the girl who could run 3.5 without a single break.
Challenge expectations - your own and the world's.
Challenge the word "impossible" - because it's just a word.
Challenge the image the world forced upon you - and you were stupid enough to buy into.
This isn't about weight loss right now. Tomorrow isn't about numbers on the scale or the perfect body. It's about becoming who you were born to be. It's about coming back to the 3 and 4 year old you who never stopped running, jumping, playing - who never wanted to come inside because the world was filled with so much wonder and walls just seemed to block it all out. Let that little girl run for you. And, no matter what the outcome, thank yourself when you're done for the effort, the time you put in, the journey you've face, battled, and overcome.
Let that small voice in your head take over and consume you. The one you've been hiding for years. The one that you forced down with two words that seemed so overpowering - Can't and Impossible. Those two words that seemed so big, but are merely words with no definite meaning. Let that voice ring out. You know the one. The one that I imagine has on pink boxing gloves, a sports bra, running compression pants, and a gold medal of victory. The one that says, "Oh YES. I can. Just watch me."
And realize, finally and forever, that this year has built your character into something you can be proud of. A mother who teaches her children healthy habits. A wife who doesn't sacrifice herself for her husband, but who, through supporting herself, has the power and willingness to support him through his trials as well. The daughter who realizes the power of the love her mother never stopped giving, and who is willing, ready, and able to give it back in spades over and over again. The sister who will always follow an accidental early morning phone call with a text that ensures that everything is alright and realizes that if, for some reason, that sister says no, she will drop everything and come to her aid. The woman that is defiant in all the best ways, persistent and relentless and determined. The woman who, finally after 30 years, has learned to love herself for who she is no matter how much she weighs, the size of her jeans, the color of her hair, the blemishes on her face. The writer. The seeker of truth and advocate for justice. The woman who is able to rejoice in her accomplishments without letting them turn her into a self-righteous know-it-all.
The streets are not paved with gold. The road is not easy. But for every rock, cobblestone, or section of cement your persistent and defiant foot hits, you are leaving behind the doubts and forging your way into a future that you created.
And, finally, I want to say two simple words to you....
Thank you for finally allowing me to be heard.
Thank you for not stuffing me down again with boxes of chocolate and doubts fed to you through years of abuse.
Thank you for finally standing up and deciding to fight.
We can and will do this. Together. And it will be our greatest accomplishment to date, but not our greatest ever because we're starting to realize that we can be more than we ever imagined. Let's get going. We've got a lot of work ahead of us, but we have all the tools we need and all the courage to succeed if we just keep fighting together.