Monday, April 7, 2014

It's all about perspective


It was a beautiful day in northern Michigan yesterday. It was sunny and warm, and spring was in the air! I went to mass, picked up a few groceries on the way home, cooked a very nice dinner for a friend, and took an afternoon walk in the afternoon sunshine.  It was 52 degrees and the mounds of snow were slowly melting in the warmth; a sure sign of better days ahead. 

I walked down the muddy road, wearing only a flannel shirt, jeans, and sneakers; no coat, scarf, gloves, or boots! Gosh, it felt great.  As I walked, I noticed all the snow still remaining in the woods, but the ice is slowing breaking up in the ditches, and there is running water on the banks. As I walked, I kept thinking about PERSPECTIVE.  Fifty-two degrees felt like 75 after a really long winter, and compared to the 10 degrees we had one day last week. And yet, 52 on a late June afternoon would be bitterly cold, and everyone would be complaining about the weather. And yet…it felt awesome! It’s all about perspective.  This made me think about the standards that I use to determine progress. What measuring stick do I use?

Sometimes we all tend to fall in the trap of comparing our situation….whatever it is; progress….finances….relationships…..fitness….struggles…..EVERYTHING……to other people, and we often end up feeling sorry for ourselves.  It’s a dangerous practice, one that can rob us of peace and joy, and leave us feeling unsatisfied, depressed, defeated, and even worse: Ungrateful.

As I walked, I thought about this more and more. First, I thought about money. I’ve been selling some of my old stuff on EBay in recent weeks. It’s a lot of work, takes a lot of time (that I can’t really spare) but I managed to earn some extra money in the process. For a girl like me, a couple of hundred dollars is a REALLY BIG deal and I was so excited to be able to set it aside in case of an emergency. I am thrilled, even though, if truth be told, it was a very small reward for the amount of time and effort that went into earning it. But still….it’s money that will come in handy in the near future….and I’m kind of feeling proud of myself!  That joy, as silly as it is, would dissipate very quickly though if I compared it to someone else who earns big bucks at work, or has thousands of dollars in the bank.  It would be “drop-in-the-bucket” to them; pocket-change really.  To him/her, a $100 bill would mean nothing.  To someone without a job, on the other hand, it would be like $1000!  It’s all about perspective.

I was late getting to mass yesterday because I encountered what felt like a “matter of life and death” situation. When I think about it now, it was rather ridiculous, but yesterday….oh boy, yesterday, I felt more stress than I have in a very long time. I lost a couple of top teeth a few years ago (right before I began this journey) due to my addiction to soda. As a result, I wear a removable dental device. As I was leaving to walk out the door to Mass, I went to put the piece in my mouth when I discovered that it was “missing.”  What?  Where on earth could it be? I always (well, I guess not ALWAYS) keep it in the same place. I was frantic….actually….MORE than frantic. I ripped this place up, dumped drawers, cleared countertops....in a complete panic. Why? I ask now. What’s the big deal…it isn’t like I couldn’t function without it, and yet, at that moment, it was devastating and I was a mess. It’s not like it was a complete set of teeth….it’s not like a pair of glasses that would leave me legally blind….it’s not like some medication that would cause my heart to stop in 20 minutes without it….it’s a little piece of dental work that is only necessary for cosmetic purposes…..and yet……I was comparing it to a life-death situation requiring the services of the National Guard!  Get a grip, Theresa.  I eventually found it…..but only after sorting through the garbage….coffee grounds, apple peelings, sweet potato skins…..gross, yucky, stinky garbage….piece by piece!  I laugh now…but not yesterday. Compared to some of the things that some of you are dealing with…..grief, illness, aging parents, cancer….much, more…..this was just a silly inconvenience that caused me the embarrassment of walking into church late.  It’s all about PERSPECTIVE! 

In terms of this journey....it has been important to keep things in perspective in terms of my progress. Some of you may relate.  You all know that I weighed over 400 pounds when I started out. My first goal was to get in the 300’s.  I was thrilled beyond words when I reached the 300’s….something that would horrify most of you….to be in the 300’s.  And yet….to me, it was a victory. I remember how excited I was to be able to wear the biggest size in the plus size store…..because I had to buy the majority of my clothes through a mail-order catalog…..but not anymore. I could shop at the “Big-girl” store: Who cared that I wore the biggest size…I was there….and feeling pretty smug about it too.  Some of you are disgusted because you even have to go to that store because you never had to do that before. Again, it’s all about perspective.  When you need to lose 100 or more pounds, losing 5 or 10 may seem insignificant to you and you may be feeling discouraged by your progress, but 5 or 10 pounds is still 5 or 10 pounds…and it is a victory!  Being sober or smoke-free for 5 days or 5 hours, compared to 5 years doesn’t seem like it’s a big deal, but to an addict…it is a victory.   Don’t let comparison destroy your joy.

As I concluded my walk….the temptation to say… “Gosh, Theresa, you only walked one mile and your joints are aching and your toes (neuropathy) are numb and painful….­­one mile isn’t very far when last summer you were walking two or three miles effortlessly.”  But…compared to three years ago, when I couldn’t even walk a few steps…. A mile is a victory!  I’m don’t draw a large salary, but compared to many who are unemployed, I’m blessed beyond measure. My vehicle is 15 years old, but compared to some in this group who do not have transportation of any kind, I am a very lucky girl.  My health is not perfect and I struggle with illness, but compared to many, I am incredibly blessed…..my body is flabby, I would like to lose more weight, I am not as smart as I wish I were, I’m not as loving and kind as I’d like to be, I’m not as wise as I hope to one day be……..I’m not as…… (I could go on and on).  BUT….I am abundantly blessed and I am a miracle, and GOD HAS BEEN SO GOOD TO ME!!!!

 When we fall into the trap of comparing our lives….our weight loss progress….our bodies….our relationships….our finances…..our health, our burdens, our finances…our struggles….WHATEVER…..to someone else, we forgot how blessed we are.  We lose hope, we become depressed and discouraged, we want to give up and feel insignificant.  Instead, I encourage you today…..to keep things in perspective. Rejoice in your progress, however small you think it is….however slow it feels…however insignificant it seems…and above all things…. BE GRATEFUL.   A life of gratitude leads to a life of joy. 

Make it a happy day!