Sunday, May 18, 2014

Pull up the weeds of negative thinking

Gosh, what an exciting week it has been with the speaking engagements and my fly-fishing trip. I was happy to see the weekend arrive because I was planning all week on shopping for my flower and vegetable plants to begin the gardening season.  The weather didn’t really cooperate with the planting part because we had another frost/freeze warning for last night, but I did venture out to town to begin the first of many trips to the nursery. Notice how I said many?  It often takes me several trips…and just “one or two more plants” to complete the planting…..but that “one or two more plants” usually turns into several. Only a fellow gardener would know what I mean by that. My fellow dieters would likely understand if I phrased it “I’ll just have ONE more bite, well maybe two….and before long, the whole bag of chips or cookies is gone.”  In any case, I found it a bit crazy that my pool is up, filled, and ready to go, but yesterday I was shopping for flowers with gloves on…and I could see my breath!  Michigan weather……sigh.......but there is absolutely NOTHING I can do about the weather, so it’s one of those daily reminders that God gives me that life is not about fretting/worrying/complaining about those things that we cannot control, but rather being grateful and focusing on those things that we CAN control….such as our behavior, thoughts, and attitudes.

Although my plants will likely live in the garage for a few more days, I did manage to spend a bit of time between the raindrops putzing around the yard and pulling weeds. For those of you that are new to the group, last summer I put in several new perennial gardens. I am not a big-time gardener by any means and my yard is certainly not a “Better Homes and Gardens” type, but I do love flowers and plants. When I was at the lowest point of my life (over 400 pounds and unable to walk more than a few steps) I was unable to do much in the yard. A few flower pots and the perennials planted by the previous owner of my home was about the extent of it, but that wasn’t always the case. When I was teaching in the Catholic School, I had the summers off and had a lot of beautiful flowers.  Last year was a true joy for me to be able to play in the dirt, dig new gardens by hand, haul rocks and mulch, and see my yard come alive for the first time in many years.  There is something incredibly intoxicating about seeing something come to fruition…something that you nurtured…..something that you planted that you waited ever so patiently to see blossom…..something that sometimes had to withstand very harsh elements like a hail storm or late/early frost, but somehow in spite of it…..still bloomed and was beautiful.  SO MUCH LIKE OUR JOURNEY and the overwhelming joy that comes from seeing progress for one’s hard work and effort.

It doesn't really matter whether you are just beginning your journey or have been working on your life changes for many years; we are all at the same place every spring. Even those “perennial” gardens….those plants that have been there for years and years….still need careful attention, pruning, watering and nurturing to grow. It takes work….watering….weeding….and favorable weather (or God’s intervention) to turn a seedling, root, bulb…whatever….into a beautiful plant or flower. Likewise, it takes a lot of effort, patience, and God’s grace for us to grow into all that God wants us to be, and to have strong roots so that we can stand up to the temptation and harsh conditions that life sometimes throws at us. No matter what stage we are, it is still a daily commitment to a healthy lifestyle. In my experience, it’s even harder to maintain weight loss, sobriety, wellness…whatever we battle.
I have an area in the garden that is lined with pea gravel or small stones.  This area is home to a lot of “creeping Charlie,” a very annoying and invasive weed (although it has lovely purple flowers on it right now) that spreads very rapidly by underground runner shoots.  It is virtually impossible to get rid of and it spreads all over. I literally could spend time every day of the summer pulling it up and still not get rid of it completely. As I was tackling this weed yesterday, I kept thinking about how tough and hardy it was…growing amidst these rocks, enduring temperatures in the 20’s, withstanding the weed killer I eventually resorted to last fall, and constantly having its roots yanked up.  And yet….it grows….and grows…and grows…..SIGH.  Such an annoyance….and yet….God spoke to me through the ‘weed-pulling battle” about my journey.

I kept thinking about my strong belief that true life-change begins in the mind and with the thoughts. As I’ve stated many times before, “In order for me to change my life….and continue to change my life….I had/have to change the way I THINK about things.”  Not just the obvious things like food, activity, addiction, etc….but THINGS like fear, doubt, forgiveness, self-esteem, and gratitude, etc. 

Negative thoughts….LIES that we tell ourselves, if you will….caused my life to spiral out of control and left me in a state of complete emotional and physical pain. Thoughts like, “Theresa, you are never going to lose weight”, “It’s too hard; you can’t do it,” “People can’t lose that much weight without surgery or pills,” “You just have too much to lose,” “You can’t do it….You won’t keep it off….You’ll never reach your goal….You’re not worth it……You might as well just give up” are like WEEDS that threaten to take over the garden of your life. These negative thoughts…and many others like it…..are just like the creeping Charlie in my garden.  Negative thoughts grow easier than flowers. They thrive when life gets hard and we get bombarded by uncontrollable things like illness, grief, stress, unemployment….whatever.  They threaten to take over and choke out the joy and peace that we want in our life.  When we harbor the fear of failure; doubt our abilities to succeed; beat ourselves up for past failures or mistakes; despair because we give in to temptation, gain weight, fall off the wagon (whatever), we are choking out the beautiful new life that is waiting to grow and blossom.

 Getting rid of the negative attitudes, emotions, and thoughts is a DAILY BATTLE…just like the weeds…because for most of us, it’s easier to be negative than positive, especially if we’ve been hurt or have been given a heavy cross to bear. We must continually pull up those thoughts….get rid of them….dig them up….stomp them out…..whatever we have to do… that they don’t take over our minds and sabotage those beautiful things waiting to bloom and grow in us.  I made a little progress yesterday in my weeding but if I go out there later today, I will see more weeds and undesirable things growing again.  I have a choice: I can let it grow, knowing that if I do, it will spread and spread and spread, eventually taking over the garden, or I can commit to getting rid of it, a little at a time, sticking with it, not growing weary so that I can enjoy the fruits of my labor.  Eventually, the flowers will bloom and their beauty and color will be the first thing I notice; the weeds will be secondary.  Eventually you will begin to see progress in your life and you will gain the momentum and motivation to keep it up.

Likewise, you might only be able to see the negative….the pain, sadness,  misery, discouragement, or struggles in your life right now, but I assure you…if you begin to pull up those negative thoughts; get rid of those negative habits; change the way you think about food and LIFE….you will see the good begin to grow. Changing one’s life is a daily choice…. A LIFE LONG BATTLE…..because it so much easier to feel defeated and hopeless than it is to feel victorious.  I have made the commitment….to fight the fight and try each day to find the positive; to be grateful for the blessings in my life; and to DAILY….pull up those “weeds” that threaten my joy.  How about you??????  What is the garden of your life going to look like? 

Make it a happy, peaceful day!