habits with balance. Since last June I've been making changes and there's definitely desire in me to keep forward momentum. The other day I caught myself looking up a trending "healthy eating plan" (I'm pretty sure we used to call those "diets"). Looking over what I could find out about it (without having to buy the book), my head started to spin and my eyes started to bulge seeing the new language I would have to learn, the new math I would need to cipher with, and the litany of guidelines I'd have to shift into living within. It felt like one giant step into a sort of bondage and away from the freedom I've felt through the process of the last twelve months. Thankfully I had a moment of sobriety and remembered I've made seriously good strides in my eating habits - mostly in learning to really listen to my body and crowd out the junk and replace it with better, both thought and food - and don't feel like I need another "plan" to follow.
So what next, then? What's a forward step? Anthony and I took a bike ride yesterday morning which rounded out thirty miles of biking for me in the last three weeks. (Mostly) I didn't hate it and enjoyed those miles. Thinking on that brought me the spark of inspiration to realize that for this year ahead of healthy-habit-building (which runs from June to June for me), I want to start moving my body (I think we used to call that "exercise"). In the same ways I learned about a healthier way of eating, how my body responds, what it craves, and all of the thought patterns associated with it I want to learn myself as a mover. I have always been sedentary as habit. I mean I'm tough and I'm strong and I don't shy away from hard work, but there's this deeply ingrained aversion to exercise. Maybe it's the chubby girl in me from grade school that huffed and puffed behind almost everyone else running laps in gym class that still hangs out in my head and equates all exercise as being that kind of experience. Whatever it is, I want this year to find ways I like to move (I think that's crucial...if I don't like it, I ain't gonna do it), and then carve out a place for it in my thinking, intentions, and schedule.
I'm asking myself some questions and trying to build a plan on the "right now" answers. I've lived enough life to know change happens and answers to questions we ask ourselves can begin to shift. But how I answer in the now is what I'm basing the NOW plan on:
-What exercise do I already know I like to do? (riding bikes, Wii Fit, dancing with the kids)
-What exercise do I already know I DON'T like to do? (running, walking anywhere without a destination)
-What exercise am I genuinely interested in trying? (yoga, weight training)
-Do I like people to be with me? Or do I prefer to be alone?
-When are realistic times of the week that I will exercise?
-What do I need to move or shift over in my schedule to make the space for it to happen?
We are these amazing creations; spirit, body, mind, and soul. Our whole integrated self needs care. It would be so nice if there were one or two things we could do that cures what ails us, but that's never so. I'd love it if all I needed for health and wellness could be reduced to whether I ate a carrot or a doughnut today, but it can't be. So I'm going to give it the ol' college try of adding consistent exercise into my life these next eleven months. Some days I'll love it. I've loved riding bikes. Some days I'll hate it. Even yesterday, biking the same route for the third time in three weeks, it was HARD for me, like I hadn't done it at all before. But I can do hard things. I can build consistency. Heck, I'm consistently a lot of things I don't necessarily prefer. Now I know, though, that I can also make changes, that I can change.
We'll see what happens.
We're learning to rest. Yes we are. That's not the same as the natural function of sleeping, so you have to learn it. It's not automatic, and even less so these days in this world and culture. It's also not escapism. It isn't Candy Crush-ing, Netflix-watching, or facebook-scrolling withdrawal from reality we're practicing. We're learning to rest, to be rest-ored; or to be re-stored, having the most valuable depleted stock on our shelves replenished.
Seriously. We're learning. It's important enough a lesson that we are finally willing to practice it and carve out entire days for it, grasp it, cling onto it; like something of life depends on it.
Some days have looked like us going nowhere, seeing no one, turning nothing but music on and a lamp at dusk. It has looked like sleeping-in, books read and games played, like braided hair and whispered dreams, like prayers uttered and worries put off. It has meant a post-it note left out so that distracting thoughts of to-dos can be thrown down in a drive-by fashion and left for later, out-of-sight-out-of-mind for at least This Day. It's entailed nearly effortless foods so that even meals require little labor. It's meant late-night emptying of the sink and straightening of the living room Yesterday so Today the spaces are inviting and wooing us towards rest.
Everyday that we attempt rest means we willfully stay in Today, don't stew over Yesterday or borrow from Tomorrow. We're resting. We're learning how.
Sometimes the rest keeps us locked in and the world locked out. But sometimes we find it on the outside of our doors. It looks like secret spots and flowing water. It's hidden in shoals and slides made of slippery rock and imaginary miniature worlds built of moss and stone.
In or out, we're learning to rest. In and out, we rest.
I recently posted this to facebook:
On June 1, 2013 I decided to try one more time to get healthy. I had almost no hope, but just enough desperation. Today is Tuesday June 3, 2014. Tuesdays are the only day I step on a scale, if at all. Today, there are 40 pounds less of me than a year ago, and I am so grateful. I know the stuff I am made of more than ever before.I got genuine and life-bringing encouragement from friends when I cracked this door open, letting people know this is a journey I've been on for a year. Up to now it's been mostly private as I deal with what are some of the most intimate things of my person, of my psyche, and of my physiology. From the facebook comments the question that surfaced was, "How? What did you do? Did you follow a plan?" Because there is no short answer to that question based on my experiences of the past year I said, "I'll write about it." And so, here I am. My initial impulse is to methodically detail the changes to my diet and behavior that I've tried and incorporated - or discarded - this year. The list would be sort of longish and I'd find it hard to leave off tedious descriptions for whys and how-longs and the like. Thinking it through, I was okay with that because I like to be open about details of my life if I think it would benefit someone in any way. It wasn't until listening to a conference call for work last week that epiphany struck. I could tell you what "rules" I followed or broke, but it wouldn't adequately explain the changes. Hindsight has taught me that. The teaching in the conference call afforded me the opportunity to reflect with that hindsight.
I live in health now. But I also know my life was happy and joyful and rich beyond measure 40 pounds ago. My husband loved me, I birthed my babies, I had the best of friends and family, I accomplished goals. This thought from a blog I've read and reread for years is at the forefront of my thoughts on this momentous occasion:
"The matter is that, fat or thin, big or bitty, I’ll always be both. No, I won’t look in the mirror and see the other. No, I won’t praise one too highly. Because they’re all I know.
Each is valuable.
When you’re big for twenty years, the only twenty you’ve ever known, you’ll kindly not frown upon two decades. You’ll know that who you are was formed in there, and that’s beautiful.
True story. It's a good day, a good life, and an incredible journey.
The epiphany: I had everything I needed to change, and so I got to the business of changing.
That sounds reductive or vague or nebulous and I don't mean for it to be, so I'll explain. There are things that stood - sometimes still stand - in the way of me and change. They're the same things that stand between anyone and change. The barriers are:
- a stuck mindset - it's been this way for so long, how could it actually be different? It's the only normal I've ever had. I can't even envision a different reality.
- lack of clarity on what to change - I know I have this thing going on in my life, but what exactly do I need to change? How do I know what's the most important thing to change?
- lack of understanding about how to change - there are a thousand options about a thousand things everyday. What the heck is the "right" way?!
- lack of a compelling reason to change - surprisingly, even when faced with death, only one out of nine people make necessary changes. We have our comfort zones and they're comfortable. If they weren't, we could unstick ourselves much more easily.
- no real accountability to the people who love me - I don't know if I'm willing to open myself up to somebody else, to let them have access to questioning me about my choices and my behavior, my successes and my failings.
As Sam Bracken went through these barriers to change on the conference call, my hindsight came into focus. I looked at that list and realized that on May 31st, 2013, the day before the Year of Big Change began, I had reached my fill of all of the above. I had gotten to a weight that was equal to my top pregnancy weight. I was sick and sedentary. I had pretty regular heart palpitations. I was 36 and had let another year pass being my unhealthiest self. I had once again stared into the reality of a family history of diabetes and heart disease and turned my nose up at it. I had taken one more beach vacation more self-conscious than courageous to play on the beach and in the waves with my all-too-quickly growing children.
When I got back in town from that beach trip my sister told me about a documentary she had just watched, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. The whole time she talked I felt equal impulses to shout, "Shut up! Shut up! Don't tell me about another thing to fail at!" and "Wait, tell me EVERYTHING!" Within a day or so, I watched the documentary and in the smallest measure let Joe Cross' story of hope seep in. He had a big-change story and a big vision for other people to experience the same. In all my weariness and brokenness I know now there was just enough left in me to believe...one more time.
There was a perfect collision of three things: the belief that people - including me - can still change (even if I was mostly having to borrow this belief off of Joe Cross), the pain of not changing, and getting some re-education through the documentary. Once again the conference call this past week pointed out the colliding of these three things as being the impetus for change: big vision, the gain of changing or the pain of not, and receiving key information. Armed with desperation (which has a root word of "despair" for a reason), the broken vulnerability to let my husband and our two best friends into my yuck, and a $29 juicer from Aldi, June 1st was the first stepping stone on the new path.
So I juiced for nearly a month. From there I moved to adding back whole foods. Later I took another thirty days to do an anti-inflammation diet called Whole 30. I read books about bodies and what they need, how they process food, what they do when you make them "diet". I learned all the time, not just from books or food labels, but my own body. I paid attention to it. I decided when I was willing to weigh and when I wasn't. I stayed accountable to Anthony and to Kathryn and Barry (in fact, above just sharing my own junk with them, they have walked it with me and joined me in juicing and Whole 30 and so many things in between...mostly HOPE!). As I felt willing I added into my circle of confidants a few family and friends. I prayed and confessed and set goals. I took it an hour, a day, a group of days at a time. I meditated on the truth of my deepest worth and value coming from a place of no forcing and no holding back, put there by a God who doesn't look to the outside of me, but rather my whole created being. I stayed focused except for when it was better to take my gaze and put it somewhere else to not become self-obsessed. I took big actions for set amounts of time, but mostly maintained small, subtle shifts. I constantly course-corrected and still do.
Typing that out makes my heart pound, my cheeks flush, and my eyes water.
I have changed. I am not the same. I know I've changed in ways that far outweigh 40 pounds lost. I don't fear a "backslide". I have "fallen off the wagon", but even that doesn't look like it used to, it doesn't last as long, and I always readjust back. I don't have obsessive thoughts about my body or my weight or my health. I have decided what is worth this effort and the list is looong, with my own value topping the list and a life of wholeness for as long as possible with my husband and kids.
I have changed.
I could tell you ad nauseum all the changes regarding food and associated behaviors. But in that glorious hindsight I know now that I lost my stuck mindset, my lack of clarity on what to change, my lack of direction on how to change, my lack of a compelling reason to change, and my lack of accountability to the people that love me. I gave those things up. It didn't all happen in an immediate download on June 1st, 2013. It is a constant process. I have changed, but I am changing. The change has helped me lose those "lack"s, and forty+ pounds.
But the gains. Oh my, the gains...
I think you can do it. Whatever the perceived need is, I think you can do it. Today, on this day and after this year's journey, I really believe that. I pray for courage, course-correcting insights, and companions for your journey.
I've changed. Have you? Will you? I know you can. Really, really.