Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Do as I do; not as I say

As a child, I was always perplexed when my mother would say, “Do as I say; not as I do” when trying to get me to alter my behavior in some way. For the most part, she modeled good behavior, but sometimes, to a kid, adult privileges such as staying up late, enjoying a cocktail, or going out to special events seemed unfair when I wasn’t allowed to participate. Good habits, like going to church, saying prayers before bedtime, eating vegetables at dinner, and saving money in a jar for a special treat or a vacation, were modeled, not merely expected behavior. I liked that, and subsequently, learned that others will have a greater respect for my words when I backed them up with action.  When I was in an administrative position at work many years ago, I never expected my staff members to do things that I wasn’t willing to do myself.

I mentioned in previous posts that I’m teaching a couple of sections of a “Navigating College” class this semester. This course is designed to help first-time students learn the habits required to be successful in college. Last week I was telling my classes that I know first-hand how difficult it is to go to college and manage a job and personal life at the same time because I’ve been in there shoes not so long ago, and I keep “putting on those shoes.”  I take a couple of classes “just for fun” each winter to keep myself “in the loop” and remind myself of what it’s like to be a student, primarily so that I can back up my words and say, “I hear ya, sister,” when a student is lamenting the struggles and frustrations of school.  It makes my words of counsel and advice a bit more effective when I can say, “Been there; done that; still there….” 

There is something comforting about being in the midst of those who know what it’s like to “walk the walk” and not merely “talk the talk.”  I always found it difficult to put much stock or make a connection to those who were giving out weight loss or exercise advice that never struggled with weight issues or eating habits. Likewise, I doubted that a completely “fit”, life-time athlete that never had to struggle to walk a half a block could understand what it was like to be obese and struggle to pick up a set of keys that were dropped to the ground.  It just didn’t make sense that he/she would know what it’s like to be teased, out of shape, unable to buy a pair of pants from a store, or addicted to food, any more that I would know what it’s like to be addicted to nicotine or drugs, having never smoked a day in my life or did drugs. Although I greatly appreciate the wisdom of those that have been trained in the areas of medicine, physical education, and nutrition, I seem to connect much better with those who are like me....and know what it’s like to have been obese…..and know what it’s like to fight every day to keep from becoming that way again.  Perhaps that is why I get so much strength from this group:  We are ALL…..each of us….working day by day to become better….healthier….happier and holier people, and we are ALL in this together!!! Birds of a feather, if you will???????

I’ve shared many times that my strength for this journey has come, and continues to come, from my faith in a higher power. In times of temptation, I unite myself with Jesus, knowing that He, too, was tempted and wanted to give up.  In times of frustration, I remind myself that He, too, knew what it was like to be human to experience pain, sadness, and loneliness, and yet, He surrendered His life to His Father. He knew what it was like to fall, not just once, but several times, on His way to the cross, and yet, He got up again and again.  I try to remember that when I feel like I’ve failed and need to start anew.  Life is a journey, and each day, we get another opportunity to do better; make better choices; be kinder, more loving, gentle, and forgiving people. We get a “do-over” each day….and we can unite selves to one who knows what it’s like…not only our God….but each other! 
At Mass this weekend, my pastor made reference to a story about Ghandi and a boy that was struggling with sweets. His mother brought him to see Ghandi hoping that the wise man could persuade her son to give up eating sugar.  I had never heard the story before but I am pasting it below because it spoke to me and has provided me with “food for thought” this week.  Perhaps it will do the same for you! 

Be The Change You Want To See In This World – Mahatma Gandhi
During 1930′s, a young boy had become obsessed with eating sugar. His mother was very upset with this. But no matter how much she scolded him and tried to break his habit, he continued to satisfy his sweet tooth. Totally frustrated, she decided to take her son to see his idol – Mahatma Gandhi; perhaps her son would listen to him.
She walked miles, for hours under scorching sun to finally reach Gandhi’s ashram. There, she shared with Gandhi her predicament. -
“Bapu, my son eats too much sugar. It is not good for his health. Would you please advise him to stop eating it?”
Gandhi listened to the woman carefully, thought for a while and replied,
“Please come back after two weeks. I will talk to your son.”
The woman looked perplexed and wondered why had he not asked the boy to stop eating sugar right away. She took the boy by the hand and went home.
Two weeks later they revisited Gandhi. Gandhi looked directly at the boy and said,
“Boy, you should stop eating sugar. It is not good for your health.”
The boy nodded and promised he would not continue this habit any longer. The boy’s mother was puzzled. She turned to Gandhi and asked,
“Bapu, Why didn’t you tell him that two weeks ago when I brought him here to see you?”
Gandhi smiled,
“Mother, two weeks ago I was eating a lot of sugar myself.”

Be assured, my friends, that I am here with you to share in your journey. Although I don’t fully understand all the crosses that you may be carrying, I do share in many of them. I know what it’s like to struggle with issues of weight, addiction (to food), unworthiness, fear, grief, unemployment, sadness, and a plethora of other concerns. I know what it’s like to doubt that life will ever be any better….and I know what it’s like to want to give up.  But I also know what it’s like to be “FREE” from those things; to dig deep and keep trying; to reach a little goal and set another. I know what it’s like to fight the fight; walk the walk; not merely just talk the talk. You won’t ever hear me say, “Do as I say; not as I do” when it comes to weight loss. You won’t ever hear me say, “Get off your butt and do something physical” while I sit in my lazy boy and have a donut. You won’t ever hear me say, “This is easy.”  What I do say to you is this: “Changing your life is HARD WORK.  You will want to give up again and again. You will be tempted and you’ll likely feel frustrated, and perhaps, angry at others who appear to have an easy time losing weight, being active, enjoying good health, working a great job with a great income, being in a wonderful relationship, etc... You will have days….perhaps many….when you have to drag your rear out of the chair or bed to put on your walking shoes to get moving. You’ll wonder if you will EVER reach your goals or feel better. You’ll probably have days when you binge, go off track, are frustrated because you gave in and ate something you wish you wouldn’t have. You may have to start over and over and over.  BUT…..You CAN DO IT….YOU CAN change your life….IT IS possible….and IT IS SO incredibly worth it!  I know… I’ve been there….. I am there….. I know what it’s like…..but I know a God who says “ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!”   Don’t give up my friends….keep fighting, keep believing, and keep on making the choices that will ultimately lead to change.  You can do it!!!