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.

I Sure Wish God Didn’t Trust Me So Much

I don’t know whether she ever truly said it, but Mother Teresa is credited with saying,

“I know God won’t give me anything I can handle.  I just wish he didn’t trust me so much.”

I’ve shared that quotation on my Facebook wall in times when life is handing me lemons so fast that I can’t make the lemonade quickly enough to use them all up.

Yesterday, one of my many beloved Invisible Friends (people I have met online and have never had the pleasure to meet in real life) posted words to the effect that she doesn’t believe the old adage that “God won’t give us more than we can handle” is appropriate to say to someone in their time of trouble. God doesn’t give us the pain, but he helps us through it. She later posted a link to a powerful blog by another writer who expanded on the thought.  Having had a day to think about it, and facing my own obstacles this morning, I must say that I am in agreement.

Life is not fair.  

Cancer and other terminal illness has been a constant in my close family since 2006 when my wonderful father-in-law succumbed to cancer after successfully fighting it off multiple times.  No more than a month after we laid him to rest, my own father was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.  It seemed that he had no more than gone into remission than he was struck with severe congestive heart failure as the result of damage to his heart muscle from the chemotherapy that had saved his life.  We fell back into a rhythm for a short time, and Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She had surgery to remove her right breast and 23 lymph nodes, which all tested positive for cancer.  She consented to radiation, but refused the chemotherapy which might have killed off the cancer cells that remained.  We lost Dad a short time later.  Mom was struggling to recover herself and caring for him.  They finally consented to come to my home so that I could help, and we lost Dad within 2 weeks.  I struggled.  I thought that surely now things must get easier.

Mom’s PET scans have been negative for cancer in her soft tissue since that time.  However, a tumor marker protein in her blood work has been creeping up – slowly at first, and now rapidly.  She went for a repeat PET scan last week and yesterday her oncologist said that there is no sign of tumor in her soft tissue, so we must look to the bone. The tumor marker is elevated to the point that there is no question – there is an active disease process raging in her body that will require aggressive treatment.

My dear mother looked defeated – not at the thought that the cancer was in her bones, but more at the thought that she must, again, endure another long test in a lonely room with no television, no music, and not even a picture on the wall to look at.  My heart wanted to break.

We went from the doctor’s office to get lunch, visit family, and go shopping.  Mom seems to be handling it all very well.  I, on the other hand, am ready to pitch a hissy fit.  My friend’s post was timely.  God isn’t testing me.  God isn’t giving this to me.  Life happens.  It isn’t all about me.   God didn’t select me out of all of the people on this planet to shoulder the load I am toting right now because he has some belief that I am tough and I can handle a little bit more.  I am not Job.

We are intricate creations, but our design allows flaws (cancer and other disease) to develop.  Our environment and our choices influence the likelihood that disease process will start, stop, slow or speed up.  We don’t have an infinite life here on earth.  Our bodies eventually wear out, whether or not cancer strikes.  Eighty-six years is a long life by any standard.  Many women don’t get to keep their mothers for 47+ years.  I’m not giving up hope, by any means, but I know that whether it is cancer or heart disease or simply old age, I am going to lose my mother  – I just don’t know when.  This latest crisis has removed my ability to pretend it won’t happen.  It’s not an “if” – it is a “when”.  Death happens to us all.

I will survive this challenge.  I will not survive it because I am strong, though.  I will survive it because I have no choice in the matter.  I will pray for strength and for grace and peace.  God didn’t give this particular challenge to me because I have some ability to be resilient.  God didn’t plan for me to find my husband after his suicide in 1998.  He didn’t plan for me to tell the doctors to remove life support for Dad in 2013.  God didn’t plan this – he gave us free will.  He’s not the superhero in the sky whose purpose is to go around putting out fires for those who are too weak to handle it.  Instead, he promises us his grace.

I will be there for my Mom through whatever treatment she chooses to take.  She will turn to God for comfort, as will I.  God doesn’t give me challenges because I am strong.  I am presented with challenges because I am human – I am alive.  Mom is alive, too.  I will treasure our remaining days together whether I have to say goodbye to her, or whether I am the first to leave this earthly plane.

I will experience more pain, suffering and grief than I can handle.  God’s not dishing it out to test me.  People around me aren’t developing cancer because I am strong.  I don’t have to be strong.  I can admit that I am powerless.  I can allow myself to cry.  It isn’t all about me – and I’m so glad it isn’t.  It’s not about God trusting me – it’s about me trusting Him for strength to weather the storms.