Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I am NOT the Diet Police!




 Who are you?  There are many roles that we all play throughout the day, most of them simultaneously and without thinking. Do we have any multi-taskers out there????   Those of you that have spouses/children/grandchildren/parents have roles that I don’t currently have, but I have roles that many of you do not. We all have our own individual stories and day-by-day we are trying to fulfill these responsibilities….or a better word would be priviliges….to the best of our ability so as to not let others down. Essentially, we all want to be the best possible friend/sibling/employee/neighbor, all of those things that we are.  We are accountable to those that depend on us. That’s a good thing in some ways because it keeps us focused, motivated, and striving to be better people.  A danger, however, is when we link our self-worth to those “things/roles” that we DO….and forget that even if we are no longer functioning in those roles…..either by our own choice or that of time and nature (hence, death, retirement, empty nest…whatever reason) that we still have purpose and value.  When we are no longer “needed” in the same capacity, we can sometimes slip into a depression and go through an emotional period of self-discovery as we try to answer “who am I….why do I matter…..what do I do now?” 

 

I feel into that trap about 10 years ago and turned to food and sugar to meet the voids in my life. I’ve shared before that losing my job in Rockwood was extremely devastating to me. I had wrapped my whole identity and value up in a “job”…a ministry…. that defined who I was. I wasn’t Theresa the person; I was Theresa the 24 hour a day Director of Faith Formation. I was never “off-duty.”  When that position ended, I was fortunate enough to get another one doing the same thing in a new place, but as you know, that job ended after 2 years due to a financial situation at the parish. During this time, I also found joy and meaning in being the caregiver for my priest friend, Fr. Tom, as well as being “granddaughter” and “college student”. I felt appreciated, needed, loved as a person and was given continually positive feedback from professors when I wrote a great paper or aced a test.

When my job ended, Fr. Tom and my grandparents died, and I graduated from college, I no longer had to function in those roles, and consequently, my self-worth and esteem was null and void.  I was also being diagnosed with the Rheumatoid Arthritis and was intense physical pain as they tried to adjust medications and get the disease into remission. Due to pain and sadness, I was unable/unwilling to seek out other means of “making a difference.” I was grieving those losses, my life was empty, and honestly, I just didn’t care. I was just doing what I needed to do to survive. I felt useless and worthless….sort of like “I didn’t really matter to anyone.” So… I turned to food and isolated myself from the rest of the world. Without even realizing it, I was in a wheelchair and well over 400 pounds. Yikes!

If someone had asked me at any given time in my life … “Who is Theresa”…I would have immediately responded with the roles that I played.  I think that’s normal. You probably do the same thing….Who are you?  Spouse/parent/child. Often when we are asked the question, we respond with “what we do”. It’s also common to respond with “what we are” like tall, short, fat, poor, depressed/sick…..whatever.   My journey is one where I daily try to figure out “who am I”. It’s a daily discovery….and I honestly don’t know WHO I AM. That probably has been one of the biggest struggles in this journey. I went through an intense emotional period as I was losing the weight because I didn’t recognize the person in the mirror….and I didn’t, still don’t…. know how to function at this size.  It is a daily journey of self-exploration.  Fortunately, I have been blessed with many wonderful people in my life who continually “reflect back to me” who I am. Others can see things in us that we can’t typically see in ourselves. I hope you have good people in your life that can bring out the best in you.

 

Today I am functioning in new roles and being led to help others in new ways. I am very blessed!  It has been wonderful, but it also has been challenging at times. Sometimes, I just don’t know what to say or how to help. Sometimes, I just “don’t want to”, but fortunately, my entire self-worth is no longer tied to these roles. My self-worth comes from daily trying  to accept/see myself…warts, wrinkles, lots of excess skin, imperfections, faults and all,  as one created in the image of God, and trying to figure out how to be the best “human being” that I can.  That my friends, is the most important part of our journey, not how much weight we lose!

One role that I AM NOT is the DIET POLICE! I’ve been saddened lately when some of the people in my life have just ‘disappeared” because they feel that in some way they have ‘failed me”. Some friends and group members have felt that they have “let me down” because they slipped up or didn’t stick to a weight loss plan. Others have quit the group because they have gained weight or given up….so they just started avoiding me.  Please don’t do that…… I am not the diet police….and your value to me, and to the world, has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with your weight or whether you started smoking again, or took a drink. I don’t care about things like that. Certainly, I’m thrilled to see you make progress and make healthy changes in your life, certainly I want to share in your victories and will cheer when you lose weight, but I’m more thrilled when I see how your mind/heart/spirit….total well-being is transforming. I’m thrilled to see the fruits of peace, joy, love, kindness, etc. grow in you; those things have nothing to do with a scale!  Please don’t tie your self-worth to a number, a job, role or a pant size. You matter….not because of WHAT YOU DO for others…..or where you are on your own personal journey….but because you are wonderfully made, a gift to God, and a gift to others. You make a difference to me, and to those around you!  Don’t be discouraged, don’t be ashamed, and don’t feel that you have to “answer” to me. We all need each other and can find strength from God, and from each other!