Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Meditations on "the last five pounds."

[First, apologies.  This entry is long.  These thoughts have been brewing, percolating, for weeks.  I seem unable to truncate anything because the words below have been fighting for space in my brain, and now fight for space on the page.  I'm calling a ceasefire and laying them all down.]

Finally --- after more than two months of complete physical inactivity --- I made it to the gym today.  Mandy's suggestion proved to be a great one; I told myself that I'd go to the gym, but that I only needed to run for 20 minutes.  I'll increase in small increments each day.  I found time later in the day so I don't need to wake up early.  This is a nice, manageable way for me to ease back into the daily grind of exercising.  Clearly I've given up on any kind of time goal, since my marathon is in less than a month and I struggled a bit with my 20 minute run today (my HR got up to the 170's running at what used to be an easy pace).  I may even have to walk-run the race, but hopefully I'll finish without injury.

My lackadaisical approach to training for this race caused me to think a bit about accepting some of our limitations --- physical limitations, limits of will power, whatever --- in favor of embracing the person we are and the motives we have.  I signed up for this February race because I tend to retreat from physical activity in the winter, and in the past, training for a race has helped me stay active in cold weather.  A threatening distance on the horizon often forced me to exercise when I didn't want to.  I've now realized I'm okay with softening up a bit over the winter because that's how much I hate running in the freezing temperatures.   Lesson learned.

Crying at mile 23 of my first marathon. --- January 2009

Still, my self-torment over my lack of training got me thinking about the tendency to become unhappy with ourselves when we fall short of our goals and expectations.  I'm not talking about skipping a day at the gym or having cake; I'm talking about the way we feel when we gain a few pounds (or a lot of pounds), or when we aren't at X point in X relationship like we thought we'd be, or when we mess something up or disappoint someone or otherwise don't measure up to some standard, self-imposed or otherwise.

How do these things make us feel?  Do we still feel worthy of love?  What kind of language do we use with ourselves when these things happen?  Would we speak to our friends with the words we reserve for ourselves at these times?  To our children?

Here's a more basic question:  Do we appreciate ourselves the way we are right now?  Right.  Now.  The beautiful, strong, experienced, charming, complicated, one-of-a-kind people that we are right now.  Do we love and appreciate ourselves?  Or are we waiting to change into something better --- something more worthy --- before we really embrace ourselves with open arms?  Do we think we'll embrace ourselves back at that point, after all we've put ourselves through?

This dress was a size 12.  Should I not have felt beautiful on this day if I was "capable" of being a size 4?  Did I deserve to wear a pretty dress, even if it was in my biggest size thus far? --- May 2009

If we are holding back love and acceptance from ourselves, what are we waiting for?  What do we think will magically change once we tone our abs or shrink an inch or stop eating the entire box of mochi ice cream balls in less than 36 hours?  (Ahem.  Yes.  They're delicious.)  Will we be better people?  Will we be more loved?  What exactly is going to happen?

When I try to ask myself this question, I realize I have very fuzzy answers to this question, or none at all.  At my goal weight, and at my peak fitness, I couldn't tell any difference from 25 pounds ago in the way the important people in my life loved me.  I was still as smart and witty as a 136 pound girl as I was as a 162 pound girl.  Yes, I could run faster and zip up a size four skirt, but the key aspects of me remained the same.  Even the damaged parts; losing weight and getting fit didn't fix those.  For example, I was just as insecure about and sensitive to comments about my weight at a trim 136 as I was at my lifetime high of 162. I had to fix my issues on my own; it wasn't until I hit my goal weight that I realized I could have been working on those things all along, because they sure as heck weren't going to disappear without thoughtful effort on my part.

At goal weight, and I still love food.  Learning to eat to satisfaction and not feel deprived didn't happen automatically once I became "thin."  I didn't get it right the first time. --- May 2010

And that's the rub:  when you get "there," wherever "there" is for you personally, that's when you realize that you've been there all along. It's just that the lights are on now, so you can see where you've been the whole time.  Nothing fundamental changes about who you are at the core of your being just by moving from point A to point B in life.

It has helped me immensely to recognize those times when I'm holding back love and acceptance from myself in the hopes of pushing myself to become something different.  Change is good.  Change is wonderful.  Change can be painful and sometimes we need to slog uphill through the sludge to reach that change.  But loving and accepting ourselves as we are now, as the wonderful bundles of light and flaws that we are now, is a human right, regardless of the summit we hope to reach.  The last person who should be depriving us of this right is ourselves.

Experiencing the joy of free fall (Skyjump, Las Vegas) --- May 2010

I'll close this novel with a proposition from a book I read over the summer (I think it was by Geneen Roth).  I'm paraphrasing:

"Every woman in America is struggling with the last five pounds." 

The last five pounds.

That idea really hits home for me.  I think "the last five pounds" can mean any number of things, from literally the last five (or forty, or whatever) pounds until goal weight, to the next handful of bloggers to add us to their blogrolls, to that one thing (or few things) that we want to achieve before we can really relax and accept our life as it is --- accept ourselves as we are (or will be).  We're waiting until we are what we want to be.

The tragedy of the last "five pounds," of course, is that we never lose them.  The struggle is eternal, and those "five pounds" never fall, regardless of how realistic and final-seeming our goals may be.  If we reserve our full amount of self-love and acceptance until... ["until..." fill-in-the-blank, that is], it will be a sad day for us when the lights come on and we realize we've been there all along, and yet there's still somewhere else to go.

Don't wait. 

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