What’s Normal?

It’s a few days before the election, and I’m not as concerned about who the next president will be as I am about my own little self-absorbed life. For the past five months or so, I’ve been hard at work on getting my weight down to a reasonable level. That means some vigorous exercise, and watching what I eat, are essential. I’ve done a decent job going from 261lbs down to a mere 216lbs, with roughly 20 or more pounds to go. While the feeling of euphoria in getting on the scale, and seeing the needle dip a little lower each day, is pretty amazing, I’ve hated the process. Though I love what’s staring back at me in the mirror, especially now that I fit in the mirror, the reality is that this process is so far from who I am, I can’t even begin to explain it. I keep hoping that it’ll “kick-in” one day, and I’ll actually like working out, and not eating food that doesn’t appeal to me. I recognize the danger in hating it is that I could go off the rails and rebound with a double cheeseburger in both hands, and a chocolate shake dripping from my chin. Most people yoyo with their weight. I’ve been one of those myself. Because of that, I’m trying to find a happy medium that is loving the results enough to hate, but not reject the process.

One of the hardest things for me to do is trying to not find my entire worth in losing weight, eating better and getting healthy. I say “not” because it’s a devastating feeling to have your weight, “yoyo” back up when you put so much confidence and self-worth in that sense of accomplishment. I feel it even in the slightest tick back up the scale. I had been sitting at approximately 221lbs for a while and had a week where I didn’t eat well, couldn’t get back to a regular exercise routine, and started to see my weight, ever-so-slightly, drift upwards. Mentally, 225lbs felt like 250lbs to me. Being a little older, I (hopefully) handled it with a little more wisdom, and got back to basics, but it reminded me that the anxiety still exists. I could be 195lbs and 200lbs would be my “250lbs”. When I was younger, all my worth, and lack of it, was in the measurement of the scale. So, I have days that I still war with it, but I’m a bit more conscious of the battle. It seems to help, but time will tell.

I also say “entire worth” because, let’s face it, some worth is definitely built into  accomplishing goals, or doing something positive. You may be an extremely altruistic person. Giving of yourself to the very last dollar or the last-minute of your time to help the most unfortunate, and that’s awesome. Part of it makes you feel good. Part of it, benefits you. It gives you a sense of well-being, accomplishment or achievement. If you could see into my very soul, you’d catch me on some of those occasions, patting myself on the back. I know that in the past, I’ve even been known to verbalize my “goodness” to all in earshot as well. It doesn’t remove the good thing done or what it means for someone, it just means we are humans and I think we like to feel good about ourselves, and there are times we should. The balance is again not all worth, but some worth.

I have lost nearly 50lbs and it wasn’t easy. It wasn’t just the physical work required to accomplish this goal, but the mental stamina to resist the things that impede my development. That was probably the harder of the two. Getting on a treadmill every day requires me to get up, get dressed, drive to a gym, and eventually move for set amount of time. To this day, this is a daily struggle for me. But it doesn’t compare to the mental workout I do resisting the urge to engage in food the way I used to. This is the harder thing for sure. I can only tolerate physical exercise for short periods of time. Eventually these old muscles wear out and I need to stop. By God’s grace, the only thing that stops me from eating is between my ears. It’s a harder muscle to train, and it takes a lot longer to build up endurance. If I run, I only need to endure for maybe an hour. To resist giving into unhealthy cravings is an all-day struggle. For the record, I’m not an advocate of giving up all the foods you like to eat, but cutting back and enjoying them on occasion. When you work near the best beer-battered onion rings (or as I like to refer to it, a fried salad), it really is a struggle. I’m not just resisting the urge to eat, but to eat in pattern that I’m used to. I have to react differently than what the imprint of my mind tells me to do. Again by God’s grace, I’ve seen success. Time will tell if I remain successful.

Despite all those things, on occasion, I’m still going to mess it up badly. I’m going to probably put too much worth on my accomplishments and ability, and when I mess up, I’ll probably feel guilty and may even give in to some of my cravings. I’ll probably on more than one occasion skip gym for a week (and maybe more), on purpose, because I just don’t want to do it anymore. I’m gonna fail a little, maybe even a lot. The most important thing, I’ve learned is that it’s ok. I don’t mean, “Hey, go wallow in the puddle of your failures and never try anything ever again!” To be honest, I don’t need anyone to tell me to do that, it creeps up on me, all on its own. I’m saying it’s ok, because everyone fails. In this current age, where success is defined by a false perception perpetrated across social media and enforced by people afraid to let kids fail and make mistakes, the truth is that on any number of levels, all people fail. We all slip up, screw up, miss the mark, don’t get the job, fail to make the deadline, don’t make the team or don’t pass the test. It’s normal. The second best team in baseball in 2016, the Cleveland Indians lost the World Series. It sucks. But next year, they’ll be back at it. It’s what they do. Basketball legend, Patrick Ewing, never won a title in the NBA. And yes, even greater than these superstars, I have failed, on more than one occasion. It’s true. In fact, my current weight-loss journey began like a dead car engine that wouldn’t turn over in January 2016. Trying over and over again, it didn’t kick on until June and even then, the engine has needed service occasionally.

As I close, please don’t misunderstand me. I know this sounds like an encouragement to keep striving, doing, pushing till you do it, whatever “it” is. It’s really not. What I want you to know that success, failure, losing weight, gaining weight, trying real hard, giving up on occasion, it’s all a part of life. A very, normal, regular life. If you failed at something, you’re no different than anyone else. So don’t rate yourself against someone’s success. It’ll be harder to get up again. If you succeed at something, good for you. Just remember it doesn’t make you better than anyone. If you think that, it might be harder to stoop down to help someone who needs it. We all have moments in life where we cry, laugh, get depressed, feel emotional, and even draw cold to it all. When those very normal things happen, the first thing we tend to do is put ourselves in a box and mark it, “not like anyone else.” The reality is you’re JUST like everyone else, but no one cares to come out of their own box to admit it. Recognizing the normal in all of these things is a healthy place to be. It helps us move. Simply move and live.  It helps us interact and love, and maybe, just maybe, we’ll leave the lonliness of our little boxes behind.

These are just my thoughts on life. My thoughts on how I see things. Which means these words may mean absolutely nothing. But, maybe someone can relate, then at least to that person, they could mean everything.  Welcome to normal.

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