It is an ice cube day in Toronto. The windchill of -26C this morning had me hiding under the covers instead of bolting out of bed for my run. My biggest motivator to wake up so early during the weekdays is getting my run done when there is little traffic on the sidewalks. It also helps to get the run part of my day over and done with first. At times like today, when I put it off, it is much harder to commit to a workout because I know there will be pedestrians and congested traffic to tackle. To help my brain, I take the kids to school in my running gear and choose a destination in accordance to whatever errand I need to run that day. Today it just so happened that I needed to look up a few things at the reference library for research.
On my way back and since I was not carrying anything, I ran to the local bookstore. In browsing I found myself in front of the Well-Being and Health section which overlooks the loud books over at the Diet & Nutrition aisle. Titles screamed at me in bright reds, oranges and yellows: “Lose 50 pounds without dieting!” or “A New YOU! Skinny YOU!” There was something about those covers that was hypnotizing and called out like a giant apple pie to me. I began to feel weak at the knees and feeling helpless like a little lamb in dangerous dark woods. I did not understand how I could go from feeling the adrenaline rush of a run, like I could accomplish anything, to feeling like I had suddenly aged a hundred years.
Growing up in my traditional Colombian household, being fat teenager was more than a bit of a headache; it was a nightmare. Constant judgements on my body and what I put in it were the norm for me. My family suggested all sorts of diets & fads from the cabbage soup diet to walking in sauna suits. I would lose and quickly gain it back and more. My goal felt unattainable and in such, all my goals felt unattainable. It became overwhelming and led to me wanting to just not be anymore because if I could not be what everyone wanted me to be, then how was I worth living? I used to be a pretty happy kid, but as a teenager everything sucked. My social life was school or the library because I wanted to escape the idea of me.
Even after weight loss the negative feelings I had back then surface back sometimes. I was not born a positive individual. I aimed for positivity because I found it to be the only way I could keep my head above water. If something doesn’t work out, well, I pick myself up and try again. If it still doesn’t work out I distract myself with other things so that I am left standing and lamenting at ground zero.
As I stood there, stinking a bit from the sweat from my run and staring at those big screaming letters, I thought, “There are no quick fixes.” There is no book, no audio, no pill or energy drink out there that can solve all your problems quickly and with little effort. There is no one out there who can beat your head with the truth that you have to accept yourself the way you are before you start even attempting to reach your goals. No one will hold back your food. No one will spend 90 minutes on the cardio machine for you. No one can make you believe that you are beautiful.
This is not to say that there aren’t guides that cannot help you achieve what you want in life. There are plenty of good things that come from ideas and research that can help you get what you want. However, the guides are written as if we were all assembly line made cookies that are missing an extra chip. We are human beings with individual strengths and weaknesses that just so happen to have the potential to be anything they want to be, even if it is being a chocolate cookie. I understand that doesn’t make sense, but the truth is, have you ever done something that you were surprised you were capable of doing? Have you passed a test, ran a ridiculous number of miles, cooked an amazing meal, kept a pet fish alive, or arrived early for work for once and thought, “Well, that is different!” ?
All the power, will power, hard work, and belief in yourself belongs with you and you alone. Things do not fall out of the sky and just shower you with medals or badges of achievement. In order to have fun you begin with admitting that life does not come easily for anyone. We are not owed a good and easy life. If you want something or need something so bad in your life, you must be prepared to take on a challenge no matter how impossible it might feel. You also might have to give up a great deal of things, but you might also, no, I guarantee you, you will have to accept a lot of yourself as well.
In my case, I have had to break out of habits, ideas and beliefs that were hard-wired in my brain. I will let you speculate what those habits, ideas and beliefs were since it would take more than just a simple post to get to everything. Let’s just say many years of therapy and finally aiming to no longer attend services at Our Lady of Perpetual Regression, Oppression and Outrage, it still is a continuing process.
If you fail and fail again along the way, please try not to stop and do not let it hinder your progress. You will find that each mistake you make ends up bringing you closer to success and it might not be the success you’ve been aiming for, but a success nonetheless. I once wanted to be a singer. I took piano lessons to learn how to read music. Now I cannot sing well at all, but I do enjoy playing the piano.
Learn also to look around you during your journey. Enjoy what you are doing for yourself because it is for you. I like to think that if I am content with what I am doing in life, then it makes me more attentive to what others need from me. If I have done my run for the day and spent some alotted time writing or on an equation, then my mind is clear for whenever anyone else needs me or in a more selfish way, my brain and body are ready for some dancing later in the day.
It’s important to note that it’s ok to be human. Parent or not, as much as we try to charm ourselves with the idea of being an “adult” it is ok to want to play. It’s also ok if you do not want to play.
I do not think this is just for weight loss. It is what I have come to believe for everything in my life.
I have started many journeys by asking a lot questions.:
“Both my kids have autism. Where do I go and what do I do to help them survive?”
“I’m fat, I love my curves and after living for a few years at this weight, I am not comfortable yet, what should I do?”
“I want to get a General Science Degree. What are the steps to go about doing that?”
If I did not find the answers I would ask different ones. Eventually I found steps to begin to make stuff happen, but there was a catch: I had and have to do a great amount of hard work. I had to make that hard work be part of the good things in my life. Running became much more than just a workout, it became my quiet time for me. The years of speech therapy and fighting with the school boards for my children have me appreciating them as incredible people apart from being my children. Going back to school one course at a time finds me being able to focus and managing my time better. I cannot have fun on the weekends if I have not done my work during the week.
(Right now I am working towards writing my first full-length novel. Ideas and fun plots come easily to me, however, the grammar for writing them out does not. Those are the skills that I am are currently working hard for at the moment. )
In the aisle with all that quiet yelling of “Lose 50 pounds without dieting!” or “A New YOU! Skinny YOU!” or “How you can be Mrs. Right Now!” or “THIS BOOK WILL SAVE YOU….money,” I thought about my teenage-hood and how I spent most of it missing my carefree and small goal-oriented childhood. You know, the one where you would say, “I wonder what strawberries taste like?” then you went and had a strawberry.
In other words and to sum this post up somehow: I would like an apple pie. I have to run if I want to have my apple pie. I just ran and now I have an apple pie.
It is not that simple either. You have to start with making the pie and we all know what that leads to: a fun and sticky mess. That’s a thought for another day. Mmmm?
** There are exceptions to everything I’ve written here, of course. I write from the hip.