Winning in Last Place

I’m registered for the Run Disney Princess Half Marathon in February 2016.  I went last year and didn’t get to finish (Read more here:  https://justwritewhatyouknow.com/2015/02/27/the-bus-of-shame-or-the-saddest-ride-at-walt-disney-world/).

I’ve been training for the event, and my pace has increased.  Although the minimum pace is a slow 16 minutes/mile, that’s been a real challenge for me.  Recently, I completed training runs at 15 – 16 minutes/mile.  I did a 10K in September with a slow 17 min/mile pace, but that was mostly in the dark.

Submitting a proof of time of finishing a race of at least 10K with an “acceptable” time helps one to get placed in a corral nearer the front of the pack at the Princess.  The goal is 3 hrs 15 min or less for a good corral.  Proof of time must be submitted by November 17, so I didn’t have much time.  I chose a race in Michigan based on the fact that it is near one of my “invisible” (not imaginary) online friends, and she invited me to stay with her.

As the weekend approached, I began to dread the race.  I hadn’t gotten in as much training as I hoped.  It’s a long (2.5 hours) drive each way.  I’m swamped at work, have been busy most weekends and evenings…and about a dozen other excuses.  Add that all to the fact that I was staying in someone else’s home, and my social anxiety kicked in.  I almost chickened out.  I made up my mind to honor my commitments, and I packed my bag Saturday morning, stopped at a local shop for a hostess gift

As I hit travelled west to Toledo and turned north to make my way into that state where “a rose never grows” (Once a Buckeye…) it began to rain just a little. The sun was shining, but tiny droplets were hitting my windshield.  As I looked toward the east I saw a beautiful, vivid rainbow.  A rainbow is a promise.  The rain soon stopped.  I drove farther and the showers began anew, with a brand new rainbow.

I was treated to three rainbows along the way.  I took them as a sign that I was going to have a fabulous weekend.

I arrived at my friend’s home and met her new puppy.  She nearly peed on my foot (the puppy, not my friend), which was a sure sign we were going to be best friends.  I had fun chatting with the grandkids and showing them videos of my own silly dog.  My friend and I ducked out for dinner, then came back, got into pajamas and stayed up late talking.  what a special lady she is.

I went to sleep in her very comfortable guest bed and woke in time to have a cup of coffee and some fruit to fuel up before my race.  My friend had planned to drive me to the race site and cheer me on, but when I realized it was going to be near freezing and that one of the grandchildren had an ear infection, I told her to stay home and I’d be back.  I dressed in my favorite yellow long-sleeved tech shirt with my hippie runner headband that says “I’m so far behind I think I’m in first place.”  I topped off the ensemble with my kaleidoscope tights, my favorite running skirt and bright orange shoes.  My friend’s son asked me if this was a “color run.”  I explained that this was the “Big Bird Run,” and by golly, I was doing my best to look the part.

last headI made it to the race site with plenty of time to spare.  I found a parking spot right in front of the building.  Things were definitely going my way.  I felt great.  I felt fast.  This was MY day.  I picked up my packet, looked at the race shirt, and grabbed the information sheet to read more details about the 10K.  It said, “timing will stop at the 80 minute mark.”  My heart sunk.  I knew I would probably come in about 95 – 100 minutes.  My last race had been 105 minutes.  The one before that 115.

Although the sun shone brightly, I felt as if a dark cloud covered the sky.  I felt inadequate.  I pinned my race bib on, and contemplated what I should do.  I thought about trading the 10K bib for a 4K bib and just having a “fun run.”  A 10K is a lot of work for me.  I decided to try the 10K and just have fun – I would run it as a “fun run” and bring some sunshine to the back of the pack.

At the last race that I ran, although I was slow, I was not last.  There were quite a few runners who were even slower than I am.  As I have improved, I have stopped worrying about finishing last.

I looked around the parking lot.  These were serious runners. Although it was less than 40 degrees out, there were guys in short shorts foam rolling on the freezing concrete.  I was the only “fat girl” (or guy) running the race.  My confidence started leaking out.

I gave myself a pep talk.  I looked at the sky and thanked God for a beautiful day to run.  I gave thanks that I was in no pain.  I sang happy songs to myself.  I cheered as the 1 mile and 4K races started, but I really wanted to cry.

The blue sheet that told me they would stop timing before I finished had asked slower runners to start int he back, so I made my way to the very end of the pack.  The starting gun cracked, and I watched EVERYONE move away from me.   It was like I was moving in slow motion.

I hadn’t gone a full block when the police car pulled behind me with its lights going.  It was going to be a long 6.2 miles.  This was an extraordinarily well staffed and marked race course.  There were multiple police officers or volunteers at every single intersection.  I decided to thank every single one as I went by.  Each one I thanked said, “No, thank YOU, and you’re doing GREAT!”  I didn’t believe them, but I appreciated the encouragement.

My police escort would slow down then catch up with me again.  I passed the 1 mile marker and volunteers with stop watches were giving out splits.  I could barely believe them when they said, “13:49.”  That was my fastest mile ever.  I was still in the very back, but I had the boost I needed.  My running watch was set to chirp every 45 seconds.  I would run as hard as I could until I tired and then cut back to a jog until the next chirp.

At mile 2 I was just under 30 minutes.  At mile 3 I realized I would break my personal record for a 5K.  By mile 4 I was tiring, but I caught up with the two women I had been following.  We would trade off places for the next mile.  At mile 5 the timekeepers asked if I knew if I was the last one, and when I answered “yes,” a young lady asked if she could run the last mile with me.  “I’ve never run a mile before,” she said.

Together we ran that last mile.  I was tired, but she kept telling me I could do it.  I told her I hadn’t voluntarily quit a race yet, and I wasn’t about to start.  As we ran, I told her that I had lost over 100 pounds since I began running in March 2014.  “Look at you now,” she said.

We rounded a corner together with the finish just ahead.  The timing clock was still going.  I came in at just 91 minutes – by far my personal best.  I asked the time keeper if they were still submitting times although 80 minutes was past, and he said “yes.”  I thought “I’m going to Disney World,” and I recovered a tiny bit of spring to my step.

I collected my free banana and my bottle of water.  I thought back to the rainbows that decorated my journey the night before.  Everything about the race conditions Sunday was perfect for me.  I love to run in the cold.  The pavement was dry and mostly flat (except for the highway overpass).  I had my own police escort – I alternated between joking with volunteers about being chased by the police and telling them that I was a very important dignitary who needed personal protection.

I finished dead last, but I finished.  Finishing wasn’t the difficult part – starting was the real problem.  Once I convinced myself that a time was just a number and decided to have fun and show thanks to all of the people who volunteered to stand in the cold on a Sunday morning, I had a wonderful time.  I won.  I felt honored to finish in last place.

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The good people of Roseville, Michigan made me feel like a winner.  Nobody made me feel like I was inconveniencing him by being slow. The elite runners didn’t look at me as if I was somewhere I did not belong.  I was a runner.  I was part of a community, and I was doing something I could not do for many years.

We runners have a saying:  “Dead Last Finish > Did Not Finish > Did not Start.”  I won in last place.  I won big.

I returned to my friends’ house for a shower and a hot bowl of chili.  We visited some more and said our goodbyes and I began the long drive back home.  What had started as a day full of anxiety and self-doubt became one of my proudest moments.  Later I would review my Facebook feed and be reminded that five years ago that day, I had been sworn in as a lawyer, another achievement I never believed was within my ability.

I gained a real sense of accomplishment this weekend.  I submitted my proof of time.  RunDisney says I will finish the half marathon in 3 hours and 22 minutes.  I know I can do better than that.  Those balloon ladies aren’t catching me this year, but if they do, I’ll smile and thank them for volunteering their time on a cold, dark morning.

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The Secret Ingredient to Major Life Changes

My invisible (online) friends are awesome.  We know the painful secrets we don’t tell the people in our real lives.  We lament the difficulties of dieting in our secret facebook group.  We have supported each other through divorces and miscarriages, puppies and empty nests.

This week I saw one of them post in our secret group reserved just for motivating each other on our fitness journeys.  It read,

You keep getting smaller and I keep getting bigger.  I hate myself

Eureka!  That’s the problem!

I’m going to let you in on the secret ingredient for successfully making a major change in your life.  I’m not going to charge you a million dollars – not a red cent.  I’m going to give you the gift of the knowledge that took me 48 years to learn.

Are you ready?

[drumroll]

You cannot make lasting, drastic changes in your life when you hate yourself.  You must love yourself.  That is the secret.

Think about it!  If you hate someone, the energy you spend on that person is not utilized to build them up or make them better.  Hatred, loathing, and disrespect for someone lead to destruction. Hatred causes us to focus in the wrong way.

In order to lose 100+ pounds, I have had to make some major life changes.  Some have required a lot of time.  Others have required a lot of money.  Still others have required me to put my feelings above someone else’s.

To lose weight and get healthy, I have devoted hundreds of hours to running and working out.  Those are hours I could have used many other ways.  To make that kind of time, I had to put myself first.  I had to learn to say no to other things.  If I hated myself, it would be far easier to convince myself that I’m not worth the time away from my family that it takes to be active.

I have had to change the way that I eat.   I love myself enough to cook whole foods from scratch – another 8 to 10 hours per week (not including grocery shopping).  I cook according to my food plan – not according to my family’s food preferences.  They are welcome to add or subtract from my menu, but I don’t cook what I can’t eat.  I love myself enough to ensure that the food in my house is healthy and wholesome.  If I hated myself, I could continue to sabotage myself by buying processed and prepared foods.  Buying whole foods is often more expensive than buying junk.  I love myself to spend the extra money to buy the food that I need.

I love myself enough to risk hurting someone’s feelings when they offer me food that isn’t on my meal plan.

I love myself enough to spend the money to buy proper equipment to avoid injury while I run.  I economize in other areas of my life in order to afford good running shoes, a GPS watch and fees for races.

This is the third time in my life that I have lost 100 pounds.  The difference this time is that I love myself.  I don’t hate my body.  I don’t hate my loose skin or my stretch marks.  I love the person I am.  I love the person I am becoming, and I value the lessons that I learned through being morbidly obese.

The secret ingredient to successfully making a major change is love.  You must love yourself enough to put in the work to achieve the goal.

The Destructive Power of Anger

I try very hard not to hold a grudge.  I know how much energy it wastes.  Worse yet, while I’m wasting energy and feeling miserable, the person on the other end of the grudge is blissfully unaware of it.  Someone dear to me once told me, “don’t let someone take up space in your head without paying the rent.”  I’ve remembered that and try to live by it.

Last year, someone who I had to deal with on a regular basis did some things that made me angry, then they said some things that hurt my feelings.  The result wasn’t pretty.  To his great credit, he has extended an olive branch and tried to mend fences on several occasions.  Although I said the words, “I accept your apology,” the truth is that I never really let go of the incident.

I went to the gym this morning to run a couple of miles on the indoor track.  I set my app to remind me to run for two minutes then walk for 60 seconds.  My favorite playlist was playing, I felt “fast” (for me), and I was having a great run. The first half of the 2 mile run was great.  I thought about what I would do when I finished my workout.  I thought about the fun I had over the weekend.  I could feel the grin on my face.  People were smiling and waving.

Then, at 1.27 miles in (I happened to look at my running app), last year’s “incident” popped into my head.  As soon as I thought about that person and what had happened, I got frustrated.  I mentally told myself, “you must forgive him.”  I tried to just say the words, “I forgive,” and I couldn’t do it. I felt I wasn’t ready to forgive him.  I somehow NEEDED to continue to be angry with this person. I felt my mood continue to darken, and realized that I had begun to scowl instead of smiling.

I continued to argue mentally with myself for a few more minutes, and grudgingly thought, “I forgive you.”  I continued to run/walk and soon I began to think of possible ways to not mend fences with this person (fences keep people out), but instead to build bridges.   I felt the bounce return to my step and the smile come back to my face.

I finished my run, got back home, and I got curious.  I pulled up the chart of today’s run and scrolled the bar to 1.27 miles.  While I was filled with anger, I was slower.  You can see it clearly. I went from “green” peaks to only “yellow” peaks as soon as I began harboring resentment. Stewing on old hurts slowed me down. I was 37 second slower on mile 2 than on mile 1.

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I couldn’t ask for a clearer demonstration of the power that negativity / anger has over me.  It kills our joy, saps our strength and robs us what we are working to achieve.

Thankfully, I feel much better.  It’s my turn to extend the olive branch.  I will never again underestimate the destructive power of internalized anger.

Celebrating Life – The Anniversary of My Decision to LIVE

Tomorrow is an important anniversary for me.  I will celebrate one year of learning to love life again.

Sometimes depression creeps  in unnoticed.  We keep on doing the things we need to do, but we stop caring about the things that used to matter to us.  We may continue to care about others, but we stop caring about ourselves.   For me, it was like that.  I can’t point to an event that triggered it.  I don’t know why things changed.  I just know that in the days and weeks leading up to March 9, 2014, I was in a dangerous place.  I didn’t think anybody really cared.

You see, at over 300 pounds I was having a lot of health issues.  Daily life was difficult.  Losing half of my body weight seemed like an impossible task to contemplate.  I was having “heart palpitations” and began to feel as if I was about to lose consciousness on more than one occasion.  I came to believe that I was dying.  Rather than seek medical help, I decided to let nature take its course.  I wasn’t about to take steps to actively end my life, but I didn’t want to make the effort to save it.  I guess you’d call it passive suicide.  My overeating and inactivity were robbing me of life in a very real way, and I didn’t care enough to stop it.

I wish I could tell you what, exactly, flipped the switch in my head.  On March 9, 2014, I made up my mind to call my doctor and ask him to prescribe an antidepressant medication.  It was a Sunday.  The office was closed, but I made up my mind.

I called first thing on Monday morning.  My doctor was out of the office for the week, but I had a prescription bottle and an appointment for the next week before noon that day.  Opening the bottle and putting the first pill in my mouth, I felt both a sense of failure for not being strong enough and a sense of relief that maybe, just maybe I could feel better.

I have a group of online friends who I have “talked” with in various places for 7-8 years.  They are my invisible (not imaginary) friends.  I have plants they sent to my dad’s funeral to prove they exist.  I confessed to them my feelings of failure over needing medicine.

I confided in them about the tremendous loneliness and the feelings of isolation I was experiencing.  One of them suggested I try running.  I chuckled at the thought.  I tried going to the gym the next day.  I had a panic attack.  I couldn’t do it.  I was afraid of judgment.  I made my husband turn around and take me home.

A fellow attorney practicing in another part of the state (not one of the previously mentioned group of invisible friends) who I have never met in real life sent me a message suggesting we virtually work out  / run together and sign up for a race.

The “Arthur” video began showing up in my facebook feed over and over.  I’d watched it dozens of times before.  I’d even purchased the DDP Yoga videos in 2012, shed quite a few pounds,  and did a great job of learning to get off the floor (a skill I’d retained) before eventually giving up and going back to my old ways and regaining nearly every pound I had lost.

I watched the video again.  This time, when Arthur began running, the tears streamed down my face.

I’ve learned in my life that when I start getting the same message over and over from different sources, God is trying to tell me something.  I listened.  I decided that if I wanted to live badly enough to put medicine in my body, then I wanted to live badly enough to take back my life.  If Arthur could learn to walk again, and learn to run, then so could I.

Those of you who have followed me the past year know how the rest of the story goes.  I started walking, and then I began running slowly on the treadmill.  I got over the fear of the gym and added weights to my workout.  I hit the yoga mat and did some DDPYoga.  I swam laps.  I posted on Facebook (a lot).

Soon the weather warmed and the outdoors called.  I ran on the high school track.  I ran through town.  I ran on trails.  I ran on the beach.  Although I sometimes took Jimi the Wonder Dood with me, usually this was time to myself.  I started seeing the wonder in nature- in leaves and waves and birds.  I talked to God.  He talked back in rustling leaves and wind on my face.  He talked to me through “cheers” when friends “liked” my runs on Facebook.

It wasn’t quick or easy.  I still had days when sadness pressed on my heart and made it difficult to do anything that wasn’t absolutely necessary.  Slowly, though, I returned to the land of the living.  I stopped just going through the motions.  I devoted more time to getting my soul back in order through prayer, meditation and lots and lots of sweat.

The popular adage says that when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.  I’m making lemonade and trying to give it away.  One year ago I really didn’t care if I lived or died.  One year ago, I thought that nobody cared.  One year ago I couldn’t have dreamed how wonderful life is today.

I still take those pills.  I take another for my thyroid and one for my blood pressure.  It’s part of my daily routine.  The pills didn’t fix me.  I had to do that myself with a lot of help from God and my friends and family.  I still run.  I still get sad once in a while.  It’s no longer overwhelming.

I’m a little frightened to post this, but I feel it is necessary.  It’s scary to admit that you struggle with depression.  I worry that it could hurt me professionally.  I fear that people will think less of me if they know that I have problems just like anyone else.  I believe that we need to move beyond the stigma that mental health issues hold.  I believe that if people in pain knew how many people suffer with them, people would be more inclined to seek help before it becomes easier to think about dying than to think about living.

Writing this blog post is me making lemonade.  It’s not the  “koolaid,” if it’s not your thing – move on.

I don’t believe that God tests us like Job in the Old Testament, but I do think that he gives us opportunities to understand and help others when we face trials.  I think that he gives us the grace to move through our challenges if we ask.  I think that when we are taught lessons paid for with blood, sweat and tears, it is only right to share the lessons that we have learned.

Please don’t give up.   Don’t passively wait for your vices and problems to kill you.  If you are depressed, there is hope.  Medicine is not shameful.  Therapy is not shameful.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  Don’t be afraid of failure.  Don’t be afraid of judgment.  Never, ever give up.

Today, I celebrate the life I have been given.  I am excited to see what the next 365 days holds. I am a work in progress.  Next year you will see another brand new me.  I can’t wait.

To those of you who have “liked,” “commented,” or “shared” my writing in the past, thank you for encouraging me.  To those of you who are new to this page, welcome.  Thank you for giving me an opportunity to share with you.

Today, I am celebrating life.  Welcome to the party.

~Be~

They Call it the Present Because it’s a Gift

There is no time like the present.  I really mean that.  Right now is the time to start doing whatever it is that you know that you need to do but have been avoiding.  You may think it’s too big.  You may think you’re not ready.  Whatever idea it is that you have in your head that’s holding you back, get RID of it.

I’ve spent pretty much my entire adult life being overweight, obese, or morbidly obese.  I’ve used every excuse out there.  I can justify anything.  I’m the master procrastinator.  I’d go see my doctor and he’d bug me about my weight.  My line was always, “One thing at a time.  I’ll deal with (fill in the blank), and then I’ll work on the weight.”

I dealt with the broken leg, the thyroid, the illness and death of several people close to me, undergrad, law school, setting up a law practice, and countless crises that come with the territory of being a wife, mother and human being. When I had bloodwork, my numbers were good.  Although I was borderline hypertensive, my A1C and lipids were good.  I prided myself on being “healthy fat.”  I had a love affair with Ballreich’s potato chips and anything sweet or salty.

Just about a year ago I was sitting at my office conference table with three friends who were in my Rotary Club.  We were discussing what needed to happen and how to get things rolling.  As one of my colleagues was talking, I realized that the room was fading.  I broke into a cold sweat.  My heart was doing weird jumpy things, and I couldn’t concentrate.  I considered asking one of my friends to call my husband to take me to the hospital.  I was feeling that strange.  However, I said nothing.  I concluded the meeting, went upstairs to my office and collapsed into my chair.  I was chilled and clammy. I wondered if I was sick or dying, and at the moment, I wasn’t sure if I cared.  Life wasn’t much fun.  I had a hard time moving on the best of days.  I was tired of watching the people who I cared about get sick and die.

Whatever happened was happening to me passed.  I went about my business and finished up the day.  I didn’t pass out, die, or get sicker.  I also didn’t say anything to anyone about what had happened.  In retrospect, it was probably an anxiety attack, but in that moment it felt like death was knocking at the door.

I got up the next morning and realized that something had to change.  I had put off going to the doctor because I didn’t want to have the conversation about my weight.  I hadn’t been on a scale in months.  I don’t know exactly how heavy I was, but it was a big scary number, and it was only one of my problems.

I posted in a Facebook group full of ladies I met on another internet site that I was having some troubles in my life that had me feeling very discouraged.  One of those ladies suggested I look for a group called Moms Run This Town.  She said that not only would I feel better getting some running in, but the other ladies would be great listeners as I worked through my issues.  I thanked her, and laughed silently at the thought of me running anywhere.

Over the course of the next week or two, more people suggested I try running.  One offered to train with me for a 5K race.  Although we lived miles apart, and the training together would be virtual, I agreed to give it a try.  That night I put on my walking shoes and dusted off the treadmill.  I walked a mile.  It took a good, long time, but it felt good.

I remembered a line from The Shawshank Redemption.  Red said, “get busy living, or get busy dying.”  I decided to get busy living.  I’d been just simply going through the motions for far too long.

When I first started exercising, it felt like I would never be able to “run” a mile without stopping.  In those first weeks, I spent lots of time holding on to the side rails of the treadmill and supporting a good part of my weight with my arms.  Still, I faithfully got on that treadmill night after night.

Time passed, and I got up the courage to go to a running store for a pair of real running shoes.  They didn’t laugh at me.  I didn’t get sarcastic comments or rude remarks.  I left the store with a box with a pair of shoes that cost a good chunk of change and I vowed not to let them gather dust in the closet.  I vowed that if God would just let me live long enough to undo some of the damage I had done to my body, I would enjoy life again.

As I progressed, I left the safety of the house for the high school track and then trails at local parks.  I began participating in 5K and 10K races.  I marvelled as a doe and fawn watched me run.  I came alive listening to the sounds of nature.  I began looking for new places to run.  I visited parks and neighborhoods in my town that I had never been to in the 15 years that I have lived here.

I’ve listened to music of every genre, waved at hundreds of strangers, learned to enjoy a good sweaty run, and I’ve enjoyed (nearly) every moment of it.  I’ve learned that chocolate tastes better if you have to run a mile to earn a piece, and that potato chips are still my kryptonite.

Since that day in March 2014, I have run over 450 miles.  Today, I ran a half marathon on the indoor track at my gym.  In two weeks, I will repeat that feat at Walt Disney World dressed as Ursula from The Little Mermaid.  I can hardly wait.  I’m still 100 pounds overweight, but I can run a half marathon.

half marathon

I’ve done a lot of reviewing the past year.  What does it have to do with the present?  I’m still here.  I’m healthier than I’ve been in years.  I’m happier than I’ve been in years.  My life is still not perfect, but life is sweeter because I received a wakeup call.  Only when I thought that I might possibly be dying did I realize how sweet life really is.  I don’t take my life for granted any longer.  I want to live long enough to dance at the grandchildren’s weddings.  I want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane on my 65th birthday.  None of those experiences are promised.  Life is sweet and it can be cut short in a moment.  When you “get busy living,” every moment, even the sad ones, is a gift.

I don’t know what you’re struggling with.  I don’t know what battle you are waging and which side is winning.  I do know that whatever you want to happen, there is no better time than right now to start doing something about it.  If you want to lose weight, get up and walk right now.  Don’t wait until Monday to start your exercise program.  If you want to write a book, grab your pen and write an outline.  If you want to learn to play Rhapsody in Blue, get up and play the first page as slow as you have to play it to get all of the fingers in the right place.

If you want to run a half marathon, put one on the calendar.  Pay the registration.  Recruit a partner.

There is no time like the present.  Tomorrow is not promised.  You will never regret starting right now.  A year from now you’ll wonder why you waited so long.  I promise.

Don’t Be Ashamed of Your Story

I didn’t come up with this title on my own.  It hit me smack between my eyes first thing this morning as I reviewed my Facebook feed.  I thank Kara Louisell for sharing it.  Check out her FB page for lots of inspiration.  https://www.facebook.com/karalouisell?fref=photo

dont be afraid

I shared this image on my own Facebook feed this morning.  I’ve made a lot of changes in my life in the past 10 months or so.  As a result, I’ve shed a bunch of weight.  I’ve run over 350 miles.  I’ve learned new ways to deal with sadness.  I’ve begun reaching out to others, learning to delegate, and being kinder to myself.  I’ve chronicled those changes and shared them here and on my Facebook page along the way.

I’m not normally an attention-seeker.  I’m a little bit uncomfortable being in the public eye.  I like to work behind he scenes.  I’m the person who doesn’t generally strike up a conversation, but I enjoy it immensely once given the opportunity to engage.  I’m naturally quick to discount a compliment and I still don’t like the way I look.  I’m my own worst critic.

I’ve become one of those annoying people who “checks in” at the gym on Facebook.  My nike+ app tells my friends when I start a run and how far I go.  I’ve posted pictures *eek* spandex, covered in sweat, painted up, covered in colored powder, and generally having fun while being less than necessarily “proper.”

A long-time friend posted something recently about people who stay the course without need for praise from others as opposed to people who do things half-way and seek applause.  I pray that I’m not the person that friend had in mind.  I share these changes because many have shared privately that I am inspiring them to change, too.

I am very uncomfortable being anyone’s inspiration.  I know how fallible I am.  I know how often I stray from my health diet and eat potato chips.  I am very aware when I skip a workout to go shopping or watch TV.  I’m imperfect.  I’m still overweight.  I mess up.  I don’t FEEL very inspirational.

Perhaps that imperfection – the humanity – is what inspires?  I have lost 75 pounds through sheer determination despite going through down spells, having injuries, and just feeling grumpy some days.  I’m not a fitness model.  I haven’t reached my goal weight.  I finish last at most races that I run.  My flaws are myriad – but my sincerity is real.

When people started telling me that I INSPIRE them, I wanted to tell them not to be absurd.  But, just as I learned to accept a compliment graciously, I’m learning to accept that I have no right to tell another person what (or who) is “good enough” to inspire her.

My story is complicated and colorful.  I’ve been through a lot of challenges, and despite it all I’ve managed to carry on. I’ve made decisions that I’m not proud of, but I am proud of where those decisions have brought me.  Perhaps that’s why I have been given the gift of being able to inspire others.

I’ve made a decision not to be ashamed of my story.  It’s mine to tell – all mine.  It’s different from your story.  Perhaps it will inspire you to change.  Perhaps it will inspire you to block me on Facebook.  I just write what I know.

It isn’t all about you

It’s sometimes difficult to look at the big picture.  I’ve often been guilty of seeing only how something affects me and not how the same circumstance affects those around me.  It’s human nature.  I don’t wear the other person’s shoes, so it’s not always easy to know how they feel.  At the same time, not knowing what is plaguing others, it’s easy to misinterpret bad moods, scowls and just plain lack of friendliness as a personal assault when it’s quite possible that the person is actually distracted or consumed by events that have absolutely nothing to do with me.

Nearly two decades ago a very wise woman listened to my complaint of the day and said, “Betty, it’s not all about you.”  I was taken aback.  I felt attacked.  I was pouring out my heart to someone who was there to listen, and she had the NERVE to tell me that my pain wasn’t about me.  Seconds later, she said, again, “It’s not all about you...  and you can be so glad it isn’t.”

I learned all about “Jesus Christ Syndrome” from that wise woman.  She told me that I “take on the sins of the world.”  I really do tend to blame myself for a lot of things.  I say “I’m sorry” a lot.  My friend once challenged me to go an entire week without apologizing to anyone for anything (I didn’t make it).

This morning I had a reminder that “it’s not all about me.”

My husband and I go to the gym together.  I had a rough start last year.  Actually, I had a (couple of) false start(s) last year.  I was extremely obese, self conscious, and absolutely sure that everyone would be starting at me at the gym.  I invented errands to do on the way to the gym and the errands gave me opportunities to become very upset with my poor husband about something dumb and as a result, I had an excuse to demand that he take me back home without setting foot in the gym.

After two of those incident, I finally made it past the front desk.  The staff were smiling and the other members were not staring at me.  I had a good time and it soon became a habit.  I’ve been going regularly now for about 6 months, and until recently I’ve never had a negative experience.  Recently, though, things changed.

There is a male staff member at the gym whose actions today reminded me that it isn’t all about me.  I smile a lot and I say good morning to just about everyone.  It’s just how I am.  This guy never smiles back.  Sometimes, when I am walking my warm-up laps around the track, he stands in the middle of the track to watch Fox news.  He never smiles.  He rarely makes eye contact.  He exudes contempt.

I was really very happy this morning.  Think about Tigger from Winnie the Pooh, and you’ll get a good idea of how bouncy I was feeling.  I was jamming out to Time Warp, Funky Town, and other favorite tunes as I walked around the track when I came upon Mr. Muscles directly in my path.  I gave him a big smile and said, “good morning!”  He looked right at me, locked eyes for an uncomfortable second or two and said NOTHING.

I checked my clothing for stains.  I sniffed to see if I smelled funny.  I ran my fingers through my hair, made sure that I was walking the correct direction around the track, checked my shoes for dog poop and concluded that I was okay, but that he either has a problem with women in general or just with fat women.  Whatever caused him to stare me down was obviously my fault.  I wondered what I did wrong.  I finished the workout avoiding all possibility of making eye contact with him.  I lost the bounce in my step, and felt my Tigger mood transition to Eeyore.

I finished my workout and dashed down the steps, collected my belongings from the locker room and got in the car.  Once we were in the safety of our car, I turned to my husband and asked him if he had noticed the tall blonde staff member wearing the Lifeguard shirt.  He said he knew who I was talking to.  I told him that I thought I must have irritated him because he wouldn’t even say “Good Morning.”  He chuckled and said, “it’s not about you – it’s him.”  Darling Hubby, too, had tried to engage Mr. Muscles.  He didn’t get as far as I did because Mr. Muscles wouldn’t even make eye contact.

Darling Hubby said, “It’s obvious that guy doesn’t like his job.  He doesn’t want to be here.  He doesn’t like the members.  He doesn’t like the work.  He probably won’t be here long.”

I don’t know if Darling Hubby is right on all accounts or not.  Mr. Muscles may work at the gym for a long time, but I do think he’s likely correct in stating that Mr. Muscles isn’t a happy guy.  It’s not all about me, and I’m so glad it isn’t!

Today was a good reminder that it’s not all about me.   Just as nobody else is responsible for my happiness, I’m not likely to single-handedly ruin someone else’s day very often – especially not a stranger.

One key to my happiness is to live my life trying to do the right thing.  The words below have often been attributed to Mother Teresa.  I don’t know if she actually said them, but  I love them.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

It’s not all about you, and aren’t you glad it isn’t?