Friday, March 20, 2015

A rerun in remembrance of my friend, Fr. Thomas Sauter

Happy First Day of Spring!   Thanks for all the kind words this week as I battled the respiratory bugs that knocked me on my rear. I'm getting stronger every day and will be good as new soon.  In the meantime, I wanted to rerun a post from last March 20th....the death anniversary of my dear priest friend, Fr. Sauter.  His death affected me deeply and was one of the catalysts that sent me spiraling out of control many years ago. Today. as I remember him, i give thanks to God for the positive ways he impacted my life...and those of so many others. I can only hope to do the same one day.  In the is the rerun reflection from 3/20/14 for those that may have missed it:  

  Remembering my friend on the anniversary of his death

Happy Spring!  Not only is today the first day of spring, but it’s also a special day of remembrance in my life. My thoughts today are not necessarily connected in any way to weight loss, and yet, in a sense, they are. Mostly, I’m sharing some deep, personal reflections on the anniversary of the death of my very dear friend and pastor, Fr. Thomas Sauter.

Ten years ago, this morning, I had the tremendous privilege of holding Fr. Tom in my arms as he went home to be with God. Ten years have come and gone since that day, and yet, I have never forgotten the impact that his life – and death- had and continues to have on my own life. Some of you knew Fr. Tom; most of you do not. In fact, most of you didn’t even know me at that time in my life.

When I was just a little girl, about 5 years old, Father came to St. Mary’s, Rockwood as pastor. I was in kindergarten at the time. Shortly after his arrival, my little sister was born, and my father became seriously ill with a heart problem. Father came to our home often to bring my dad communion and he always made a point of talking to or teasing me when he visited. I enrolled in the Catholic grade school and attended mass regularly with my family and we all got to know this somewhat gruff, but very kind-hearted priest. When my dad died a couple of years later (I was 8 years old), Father decided that he “needed a secretary” and hired my mom. He had survived for three years without a secretary but since mom was now a young, single parent with three little kids to support, this was Father’s way of helping us out.  As a result, I got to spend a lot of time roaming around the rectory and getting to know Father Tom. He sort of became my “surrogate” father, a role he played for many years.

I continued to attend the grade school and Father was there for those significant moments in childhood. He heard my first confession and gave me my First Holy Communion. He awarded me my 8th grade diploma and attended my high school graduation party. By the time I was in high-school, I was volunteering at the church and teaching religious education. Later, he hired me full-time as the Director of Religious Education and we worked side-by-side for 15 years. He truly was a great friend, mentor, and in many senses, a father-figure. He gave me advice on dating (tried as he may, I never took his advice to find a nice catholic boy to settle down with, although he often hand-picked prospective candidates…. J.) He paid my college tuition to the seminary out of his own pocket, but that meant he could read all my papers and see all my tests! He taught me so many life-lessons and really helped me become the person I am today. It’s no wonder that his death has been the most difficult loss for me to date. It’s been ten years, and his KC jacket still hangs in my closet; his Notre Dame hat and breviary (Prayer books for the Liturgy of the Hours) still sit on my dresser; and I still carry his rosary in my purse. I am the person I am today….a woman of faith; a woman with a servant’s heart; a woman who tries to be kind and compassionate…..because of his influence in my life. I will be ever grateful to God.

When I was just a kid, I made a promise to him that I would take care of him when “he was old.” Of course, it was just a promise made in a casual conversation in the backyard and one that I honestly never thought would come to fruition. But yet…it did…and I was given the tremendous privilege of helping him in his advancing age and declining health; much in the same way that he helped countless parishioners over the years.  Because we worked together for so many years, we came to know each other quite well. It was only natural for me to help him move from the rectory, find an apartment, pick up things from the grocery store, make sense of the stuff from the doctor, etc…those very things that daughters and sons do for their aging parents. When I lost my job in Rockwood and moved up north to take another, the hardest part of leaving was leaving him behind, even though I wasn’t that far away and came home on weekends quite often.  Still, I missed him dearly.

Less than six months after I moved north, Father became quite ill. Eventually he was unable to care for himself and I had no other option but to move him into a rehabilitation care facility (nursing home). This happened on December 23rd. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I remember the day I left him there. I walked from his room, past the Christmas tree in the lobby, and just sat in my car in the parking lot and wept like a baby. Many of you have had this experience and you know exactly what I’m talking about. Fortunately, I was able to “bust him out” on Christmas Day and he said mass for me and my family on Christmas Day in my Uncle Bob and Aunt Kathy’s living room. He sat in his wheelchair; we had a card table altar, and sang songs acapella, but to me, it was the most glorious Christmas Mass I have ever….and likely ever will….experience in my life.  An absolute wonderful memory.

In the following couple of weeks, he grew weaker and frailer. For about 3 months or more, I would work 10 hour days at work (up north) and then make the 200 mile drive south every Thursday night and would go directly to the nursing home. I spent almost the entire weekend with him, often staying right there with him, sleeping in the chair, watching the golf tournaments on TV, praying the words of the Office (daily prayer for priests) when he was too weak, celebrating mass with him, just the two of us using his food tray for an altar, mostly just being there for him. After he was ready to sleep on Sunday night, I would kiss him goodbye wondering if I’d see him again, then leave to drive back up north and then work four more days, and head back to his bedside. It was exhausting, and yet, the greatest privilege of my life. There is no greater blessing­­­­ in the world than to be able to care for someone in their final days…even though it’s difficult, tiring, frustrating and heartbreaking to see a loved one suffer. It was harder on him to realize and admit that he could no longer care for himself; that he needed me to shave him, feed him, help him dress. Learning to accept help and admit dependency is just one of those life-lessons he taught me. After all, he was as “independent” as I am, and I have as much difficulty admitting that I needed help as he did. ­­­This was one of the main reasons I ended up being 428 pounds….I thought I could handle EVERYTHING myself. Big mistake!

Father had a stroke on March 17th. I got the call, packed a bag, and headed to the hospital. He was alert when I got there; we talked a bit, and then he slipped into a coma, never to fully come out of it. I spent the next few days, until his death, at his bedside. I moved into the hospital room and was there with him for his final days. He passed peacefully in the early morning hours of March 20th, 2004. I doubt that I will ever forget those last days or the man that gave me the opportunity to care for him in life and death.

One of the reasons I am spending so much time reflecting on this situation is because this death was a tremendous loss to me and the way I processed it and grieved it (or didn’t, I guess, is more truthful) was a big factor in my weight gain. His death, along with a few other losses that happened in that same time-frame, were extremely difficult and left gaping holes in my heart. Instead of processing them in a healthy way, I chose instead to mask the pain with food and drink. I fed the pain with potato chips and M&M’s. I washed down the hurt with soda. I didn’t allow myself to grieve and process the pain, but rather, withdrew and wallowed in my sadness. Another big mistake! I should have sought counseling; I should have joined a grief support group; I should have……. ANYTHING….but what I did.

 I’m not unusual….many people do the same thing. Many people turn to drugs, alcohol, food, porn…whatever….to ­­­deal with pain, grief, despair. It’s likely the key to all addiction.  Until I began to understand what I was doing and WHY I was eating, I couldn’t do anything to correct the situation. BUT…fortunately, by the grace of GOD, I have been given a chance to remedy the situation. Is it easy? Nope! Do I have really bad days? Yep! It is the hardest thing ever….to allow myself to feel the sadness, to remember those difficult times, to recall the feelings, to deal with life today, my schedule, my fears, my life, etc…and yet, IT IS SO WORTH IT!

 Father used to tell me all the time, “No cross, no crown” meaning that Jesus had to suffer the betrayal, crucifixion, death, etc. first before the glorious resurrection. Sometimes we have to go through really hard times before we can experience true joy…sort of like childbirth I suppose. We have to spend time in the valley before we can appreciate the mountaintops. We have to experience loss before we can rejoice in victory.

For those of you that are in the role of caregiver….know that I know EXACTLY how exhausting and difficult it can be, but I also know that you will one day look back on these days and wonder how on earth you found the strength to go on day after day, but likely, you will realize one day that this is one of the greatest privileges of your life. For those of you that are grieving loss….doesn’t matter who it is you lost or how long ago you lost them, pain is pain, sadness is sadness, missing them doesn’t ever go away (even after 10 years), know that I know EXACTLY how it feels, but one day, it will get easier and your heartache will be replaced with joy when you realize how blessed you were to be loved.  For those of you that are using food, drugs, work, alcohol….whatever…to fill a void, know that I know EXACTLY why you are doing so…but I hope you don’t continue to make the same mistakes as I did. There is a better way to deal with it.

Like I said, my words today were mostly just for me to process…..but if you are reading this now, it means you have reached the end….and I appreciate you allowing me to share my thoughts….my pain….my joy….and for being there for me. I hope that I can be there for you too!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Let it go

So many times we overeat....or drink.....or indulge in other unhealthy
behavior to cover up the pain that we are trying desperately to forget or heal.  Let it go, my friends....acknowledge that life is sometimes really hard; that bad things happen to god people; that things are not always fair; that we make mistakes and other people hurt us...acknowledge it...then surrender it to God....and then... LET IT GO.    

Oftentimes, the extra weight that we carry around is simply a physical manifestation of other things that weigh heavy on our hearts and minds, and when we find the courage to let go of the emotional pain of worry, grief, resentment, unworthiness, and shame, we find that the physical weight begins to disappear as well.

May today be a day when we decide to forgive just ONE person or to surrender just ONE thought that nags at us or to ignore just ONE comment that threatens to rob us of our peace and joy.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Don't be overwhelmed by the task at hand....

I’ve been sitting her for almost two hours already this morning trying to wake up a bit and gather my thoughts. It usually takes me a week or two to adjust to the time change; this year is no exception. Although I loved that it was bright and sunny when I got off work yesterday, I admit that I am a bit “off” my game this week. Part of it is the time change; part of it is just being a bit tired from the lingering excitement from my weekend downstate with Bruce. I’m over the moon happy about my recent engagement, but a long-distance relationship and the traveling each weekend to be together and the emotions involved in the hellos and goodbyes is not for the fainthearted….but like other challenges on the journey…it’s worth being a bit weary.

Someone asked me on Monday about my wedding plans and I suddenly became a bit overwhelmed and felt very anxious; not because I am doubting my decision to get married, but because I am entering into a world that I know nothing about. I’ve never been married before; I have no idea where to even begin in terms of wedding plans. At this point I don’t even know when or where it will happen or whether we will be living in Ohio or Northern Michigan, and it feels a bit stressful to think about trying to figure everything out. Who will I invite? Should I buy a long dress? What type of reception? How am I going to pay for it? So many decisions….exciting and fun….but nonetheless…..frightening as well.  Goodness, I really miss having parents…..even if I am in my 50’s!

Fortunately, Bruce usually knows what to say to make me feel better and get me focused when I feel a bit of anxiety about ‘stuff” and when I say things like, “I don’t even know HOW to be a wife…or plan a wedding….or…..”  Even though we live far apart, he can sense things in my voice over the phone, and immediately reassures me of his love and reminds me that I don’t have to do things alone anymore. This was no exception.  He simply reminded me that there have been many times in my life when I came face-to-face with something that “I didn’t know how to do” or seemed overwhelming, and that I always managed to figure things out, learn how to do it, and accomplish whatever I sought to do.  What a great blessing he is to me!  His words immediately settled me down and I began to realize that, Yes, indeed, I can do whatever it is that I set out to do, and that planning a wedding and living happily ever after with a wonderful man wasn’t really a chore, but rather just a new experience for me. Certainly, with God’s help and him at my side, I can figure it out, right? In just a few short minutes, we were laughing about the day’s events and talking about how much we were looking forward to getting together this weekend.

I’ve been thinking about that conversation for the past day or so, and pondering how many times I have felt those same anxious and overwhelming thoughts:  moving away from home to start a new job; going back to college at age 42; facing life with Rheumatoid Arthritis; going on after the loss of loved ones…..and mostly……beginning this journey to change my life.  Each of those situations were unfamiliar to me and were sources of great stress, anxiety, doubt, and fear…..and yet….God….in His great compassion and loving-kindness gave me all I needed to face each challenge head-on. Mostly, He assured me that I was never alone and that if I surrendered my life to Him, He would show me the way. 

While each of those situations were difficult, beginning and continuing this weight loss journey is by-far the most overwhelming of all.  I reflected for a while on those feelings of apprehension…..fear….anxiety when I began this journey four years ago. At that time, I didn’t know very much about nutrition or calories….but I learned.  had lost weight successfully twice before….but using the latest fad diets and wasn’t able to reach my goals. I didn’t know anything about exercise; in fact, I HATED  it (still do) but I managed to get back on my feet again after spending several years depending on a cane, walker, or wheelchair. I honestly didn’t see any way that I would EVER be able to get below 200 pounds without resorting to surgery, especially when I couldn’t even stand up long enough to brush my teeth….but somehow I managed to get there. And I certainly didn’t know that my life would change so drastically by shedding a couple hundred pounds!  And yet….somehow….by the incredible grace of God… I am!

I spent quite a bit of time thinking about those early days of this journey, and how I approached what seemed to be an overwhelming and impossible task.  How did I EVER do this?  How did I end up here….planning a wedding….at age 51?  How did I end up writing a blog or sharing my story around the world?  How did I…( I could fill in the blanks over and over again)….when I didn’t even know how I was going to live a week without Faygo peach soda?   Well…. I did it  by taking it…..ONE DAY….ONE CHANGE…..ONE STEP…..ONE THOUGHT… a time.

 I didn’t look at the top of the staircase; I looked at the bottom step and figured out how to climb that one. I didn’t look at the END of the journey; I looked at the small section of the path that I could see in front of me.  I didn’t pay a bit of attention to the 250+ pounds I needed to lose; I concentrated on the first 20.  Anything more than that would have completely overwhelmed me and caused me to give up…..simply because I seemed too hard and I didn’t know what I was doing.  I didn’t focus on the numbers or the end of the journey, but rather, I learned to celebrate the little victories and new things that I could do….like crossing my legs for the first time in years or walking to the mailbox or seeing my feet!  Anxiety….fear….doubt….apprehension would have swallowed me up and sabotaged my journey completely had I let it.  Thank God I didn’t let it overwhelm me and I learned to enjoy the journey and to trust that God would see me through it and help me along the way.

Learning to function as a smaller person was another challenge that was very overwhelming….perhaps even more so than the actual process of physically losing the weight.  After all, I had never been a somewhat normal size person before. Even as a child/teen I was overweight and couldn’t buy regular size clothes or do things that my peers could do. EVERYTHING was more of a challenge then and I lived a life that only those who were overweight know anything about or ever worried about. “What if they don’t make school uniforms in my size?  What if I can’t do something in gym class?  What if no one picks me for their team or asks me to the dance?  What if I can’t fit in the booth at the restaurant or they have flimsy lawn chairs at the picnic?  What if I get laughed at?  What if…. What if…..what if…”  I was heavy my whole life and I learned how to live in the “what if” world. I knew how to function as a heavy girl. I knew how to make fun of myself and joke about things FIRST before someone else had the opportunity to hurt me. I knew how to PRETEND that everything was okay and to hide my pain. I knew how to be fat….and deny that I was at the same time.  I hated that life… but I knew how to live it….at least for 47 years.  What I didn’t know….and am still learning… is how to live the  new life I began to experience as I lost the weight.

I remember so many times when I would look in the mirror and not even recognize myself. I remember freaking out when I went shopping and for the first time realized that I didn’t have to buy something in the Plus Size section; I had no idea how to shop for regular size clothes. I remember not knowing how to respond to the attention that I seemed to attract everywhere I went, especially when BOYS began to come out of the woodwork.  I remember hours and hours of conversations with my friend, Chuck, as we worked to discover and learn who this “New Theresa” is, eventually realizing that she is still the same girl with the same heart as she’s always been.   Honestly, I think learning how to LIVE in this new body…one that could walk freely and do things I never dreamed possible…was/is more difficult than counting calories and resisting cookies.  I didn’t know how to think or act like an average size person; it seemed overwhelming; it caused anxiety….and yet…God….in his infinite goodness….helped me through it and continues to assure me that I am not alone on the journey.  Somehow, I figured it out by taking life one day….one thought… change….one pant size….one conversation….at a time…..all while trusting that God would help me, being patient with myself, and enjoying the process of self-discovery.

Hmmm….  Sounds like good advice to me!  And so….when I think about the sometimes overwhelming task of planning a wedding and I allow apprehension or anxiety to creep in my thoughts threatening to rob me of the incredible joy and love that I feel, I need to stop, breathe, and think about my wellness journey, and remind myself that, even though there are many things to do, decisions to make, plans to put in place and I don’t know how/where/what to do first and I’m on a path that I’ve never been on before, CERTAINLY….I am not alone on the journey.  God has brought me to this point in my life; God has blessed me with an incredible man to share my journey; and God has equipped me with all I need to get through each and every day.  All I need to do is slow down….. take things one task at a time…trust….and mostly, to enjoy the journey. After all, this is a very happy time!

And so, my friends…. Today, as I encourage myself, I also encourage you on your own personal journey.  You may find yourself in a situation where you feel anxious, overwhelmed, afraid, or discouraged. Perhaps you are in a situation where you’ve never been before and you don’t know what to do; how to act; what to think.  Perhaps you are so burdened with life’s issues, addiction, pain, or stress that you can’t even IMAGINE life being any different. Perhaps, like I was/am, you don’t even know where to begin.  To you….and to me… I say, TRUST.  Trust that you ARE CAPABLE….trust that, even if you don’t know how, you will figure it out.  Trust….that things will get better and you won’t always feel like you do at this moment. Trust… that you are NOT ALONE; that God is with you and there are people (like me) to share in your journey.  Trust…that even though it seems impossible to lose weight; give up an addiction; mend a broken relationship; recover from an illness or death; pick up the pieces of life……NOTHING is impossible and YES….YOU CAN…..and you will change your life… day; one hour if you must; one meal; one step; one conversation…….little thought… a time!!!!! 

Friday, March 6, 2015

I choose Life...

I came face-to-face yesterday with another miracle… the name of Diane.  Diane is one of our Facebook group members and, although I knew “OF” her and prayed for her for many months, I did not have the privilege of meeting her until yesterday.  Diane’s mother, Margaret, works with me at the college. Diane lives in Florida and last August she as involved in a freak, but VERY SERIOUS, accident involving an elephant. She was severely injured, spent several months in the hospital, and underwent somewhere around 18 surgeries.  She nearly lost her life and a full recovery looked bleak.  But yesterday, she and her mother, came into my office so that I could meet this remarkable woman.  WOW!  What an incredible lady!

In the course of the conversation, Diane mentioned that her accident changed her life completely. It didn’t take me long to look into her eyes and realize that the change she was talking about….although very real….did not involve the physical signs of the trauma or the scars on her body…it was the internal change of mindset.  Because she nearly lost it, she now values the gift of life in a way that you and I probably cannot even comprehend or understand.  When I asked her why she was in Michigan, tears filled her eyes as she looked at her mother (age 75) and she said that she wants to spend as much time as possible with the people that she loves….before it is too late.  I swallowed hard as  I thought of all those people in my own life that I value and love….and how many of them have gone before me. How I’d love to tell them I loved them or have a cup of coffee…..just one more time.  Makes me think about how busy I am…wonder if the things that fill my days are really ‘all that important.”

 In many ways, Diane’s accident….although horrific, painful, and senseless….enriched her life and made her a better person today.  Her faith….her sense of humor….her strength and courage….her gratitude…..all gifts that grew and manifested themselves as a result of what we, at first perceived as a horrible tragedy.  Trust me… I am not trying to make light of her suffering….it was absolutely awful, not only for Diane, but for all those who loved her and recovery will take a life-time.  If she had a choice in the matter, undoubtedly, the events of that day would have been different; much different.  After all, who sets out in the morning thinking, “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun today to be picked up by an elephant’s trunk and slammed unconscious back and forth against a cage repeatedly, breaking bones and crushing ribs?”  She nearly died….and yet….she didn’t….and now, perhaps for the first time…she truly LIVES. Remarkable….simply remarkable.

My conversation with Diane has been on my mind all day and I’ve been pondering her words and  their meaning.  What can I learn….what is God showing me… can we all be helped by her experience… can I be strengthened on my journey because I had the privilege of meeting her?   So many things….so many thought are swirling in  my spirit….and ironically….NONE of them have to do with diet or addiction…..but they all have to do with LIFE….and change……and gratitude.

The morning of Diane’s accident, she had packed a suitcase and said goodbye to her husband and children because she was planning on taking a trip to Michigan to surprise her parents.  She was going to accompany a friend who was transporting an elephant to Michigan for some sort of appearance somewhere.  While waiting for her friend to get ready, she was brutally attacked by another elephant and a short time after saying goodbye to her family, she was in the intensive care unit of a hospital fighting for her life.  Her goodbye that morning could have very easily been the final words she spoke to those she loved……but they weren’t…..because GOD intervened and had another plan for her life.

Immediately I thought about my young cousin, Bridget, who died in an auto accident a little over a year ago. I thought about my friend and neighbor, Robert Humphrey, (his birthday would be next week), who died suddenly a few weeks before Bridget when he was on his way home from a family vacation. I thought about my own mother who died suddenly at the age of 54 when I was in my 20’s (Goodness, wouldn’t she be over the moon that her “first-born, self-proclaimed ‘never gonna get married’” kid is engaged?).  I thought about my friend Carol Tilley, who went through a horrific surgery last week to amputate her leg, and now faces extensive physical therapy.  I thought about YOU…and ME….and each person who has reached out to me to share his/her story of despair, addiction, depression, and/or obesity.  Each of these situations….although unique….have taught me to value the gift of life and to appreciate all that I have been entrusted with.  My friends…regardless of what our life circumstances….the weight of the cross we are asked to bear (or in many cases…CHOOSE….to bear)…..the  road we must travel, regardless and in spite of it all……we must remember that when we are blessed with the gift of a new day…..we have MUCH To be grateful for!!!!! 

We never really know the REASONS why we sometimes have to struggle. We never really understand WHY things have to be so hard sometimes.  We never really know WHY we can’t seem to lose weight, or give up a habit, or why we keep failing to find motivation.  We can’t comprehend why our relationships sometimes don’t work out; why our kids or friends or colleagues disappoint us; why our loved ones or even ourselves get sick and have to suffer.  I don’t have the answers. I don’t know why Diane was involved in that accident or why my loved ones died. I don’t know why I had so many losses and allowed myself to become so grossly overweight. I don’t know why it took me so long to do something about it. I don’t know why it is so hard to lose and keep weight off. I don’t know  why there is war; or famine; or sickness; or death…..but I do know that each day I am given a choice….to LIVE….or to DIE (not literally)…but die by giving up hope; choosing to be negative; choosing to be bitter; remain angry; hold on to grudges; wallow in self-pity and to HATE….my body; my life; my reality; or people. 

For far too long, I cho­­se to do NOTHING but wallow in my misery and pain. I chose to ignore my reality and my responsibility. I chose to be miserable and continue to make the choices that nearly cost me my life.  I chose darkness, because for some reason… I THOUGHT that was my fate; I THOUGHT that was the ‘hand I was dealt’; I THOUGHT that was what I deserved in life. I THOUGHT… would be too hard to change; that I was too weak; that life would never be any different.  BOY, oh boy…..Thanks to the incredible grace of GOD… I can freely admit, that I THOUGHT WRONG!!!!!!   

I had a choice!!  I HAVE a choice….each and every day….with each and every breath.  YOU….HAVE…..a choice too! Each of us….regardless of our circumstances…regardless of our “scars”….regardless of our size, our addictions, our past failures, our reality….EACH OF US….is given the opportunity each day to choose gratitude or despair; to choose joy or despair; to choose trust or doubt.  Our endings will be different….not everyone will reach his/her goal; not everyone will ­­avoid sickness….or even death….not everyone will have the ‘happy ending” or outcome that we THINK WE WANT….but when we surrender our thoughts, lives, and bodies to God completely, we will end up EXACTLY where we are supposed to be.  People like Diane remind me that life is precious and our lives can change in the blink of an eye.  IT makes me ask myself….”THERESA……what have you done today…to make someone’s life better?  What have you done today….to show God that you are grateful for the gift of another day?  What have you done today to leave an impression on someone so that if I were to draw my last breath today, someone would feel that loss?”  These questions make me go….HMMM…….and cause me to think twice about the choices I make and the actions I take. They make me choose wisely about the food I choose to eat as well because I want to be as healthy as can for as long as I can so that I can continue to rejoice in the life I have been given.

As I go about my day today…and in the coming days… I will think of Diane…and ask  myself…..  “Is the food I eat today going to strengthen my body so that I can continue to LIVE the life that GOD has given me?  Are the thoughts I am thinking going to help me be a kinder, more loving person…or are they selfish, bitter, hateful, or envious?  Am I looking for the GOOD in all things and being grateful for the blessings in my life….or am I wallowing in the misery, pain, and worthlessness of my reality?  And mostly…am I doing what I need to do to be the best person I can be today?   Today….like Diane….like Carol Tilly… so many of you that cross my path… I CHOOSE to fight the fight; do what it takes; value those I love; and be GRATEFUL.  What do you choose????

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Don't let comparison steal your joy

Yesterday I went outside to start my car up before work and I was amazed at how “warm” it felt outdoors, even though I was walking across the driveway in my slippers and without a coat. It was even nearly daylight .  There was even the pungent scent of skunk in the air. I thought to myself, “Gosh, it feels like spring out there” and assumed that my lighthearted mood was just the lingering excitement and joy about my recent engagement.  Nonetheless, I felt a sense of positive energy flow through me as I went back inside to finish getting ready for work.

When I pulled out of the driveway, again remarking at how ‘nice” it was outside, I glanced up at the temperature displaying on my dashboard and was surprised to see that it was only 12 degrees outside!  WHAT?  12 degrees and I think it feels balmy?  Am I losing my mind?  Am I runny a fever?  Has menopause set in?  Nah…. but I was pretty sure that God was just using the weather to speak to my heart.  And so….. I pondered, prayed, and thought about it on my drive in and throughout my morning and the word I kept coming back to was COMPARISON. 

COMPARISON… act that can either empower us….or cripple us…if we allow it to.  I’ve done both, but yesterday I vowed to choose empowerment.  The reality of yesterday’s weather is that it was COLD….very cold; after all it was only 12 degrees and there is snow piled high along the driveway.  And yet…. I thought it felt like spring!  WHY?  Because I was comparing 12 degrees to last week’s temperature of minus 28 degrees (-28 actual temperature).  Certainly 12 degrees was downright balmy compared to 28 below zero!  On any other day, I would be mumbling about how ridiculously cold 12 degrees is…how awful the weather is in northern Michigan….how dark it is outside when I leave for work….how much I long for spring to arrive…..but not yesterday…..because yesterday it was more than 40 degrees warmer than it was on Friday when I went to work.  And so I smiled!

Bruce did a bit of shopping for me AGAIN last week and surprised me this past weekend with some new clothes (yes…I am spoiled) but I was disappointed and felt bad because a jacket he purchased…a size large….didn’t even come close to fitting me. I was embarrassed and bewildered because it wasn’t just tight….it was WAY too small. WHAT? I have clothes that have size tags  ranging from size small all the way up to XL, but I really was disheartened when the jacket didn’t fit and secretly, I wondered if I was losing control. The rest of the weekend, I struggled silently with the nagging feeling that everything felt too tight and I felt fat, bloated, and insecure, even though Bruce told me repeatedly throughout the weekend that he thinks I’m beautiful.

 The struggle was in my mind…I’m sure he didn’t even realize I was feeling that way…and my own thoughts caused me to overreact emotionally to innocent comments about eating and/or food choices. WHY?  COMPARISION….only this time… it was just the opposite….I was comparing the comfort of my clothes this weekend to two months ago when my jeans zipped with ease instead of rejoicing at how far I’ve come in my journey in these past four months and how hard I’ve fought to keep focused and on track.  There is no doubt that my jeans felt tighter this past weekend than they did last November, but they are still 12 sizes smaller than I used to wear.  I need to focus on THAT comparison…..not get completely hung up on anything else. I need to rejoice that they still zip….and that I am still fighting the fight, especially after the past two months of a complete emotional whirlwind involving very big life changes, a lot of traveling, two college classes, difficult weather conditions, a break-up and now an engagement……up, down, joy, heartache, hope, fear…..and everything in between….without the ability to walk and ride my bike due to the weather and darkness. It’s no wonder my jeans felt tight…and that’s not even considering the normal, biological reasons why we can feel bloated.

Instead of feeling defeated, scared, or beating myself up….or worse…getting hung up because of a size tag and jacket didn’t fit (Seriously, Theresa….every manufacture and designer sizes vary greatly which is why most women have to try things on before buying them…hence the reason there are dressing rooms in every store).  I should have….and need to….every day…..remind myself that I am a work in progress and compare where I am TODAY to where I was four years ago. At that point, a size 12 or 14 or a large, was not even on my radar: All I dreamed about was being able to buy a pair of jeans from the plus size store instead of a mail-order catalog.  Compared to that….well….TO GOD BE THE GLORY!!!   We are often our own worst enemy!

Comparison can cripple us if we allow it to. If we look at our life, our struggles, our relationships, our journey and compare it to those who seem to live in nicer homes; have better cars; have lost more weight than us; can walk further, run faster, or wear a smaller size, we will quickly become resentful, envious, or defeated, rather than full of gratitude. The reality is that there will ALWAYS be someone who is richer; healthier; thinner; taller….whatever. There will ALWAYS be someone who appears happier; with kids who are smarter; spouses who are kinder; crosses in life that are lighter.  There will ALWAYS be those around us that are more focused than us; more energetic; more disciplined….but their journey; their lives; their realities are THEIRS….not ours….and if we compare ourselves to someone else, we could lose hope and give up, instead of being grateful for what we do have; the progress we have made; and how strong and blessed we are.

Instead, I encourage you to COMPARE your life, your journey, your thinking to a time in your life when you weren’t working so hard to change your life.  Instead of getting hung up or feeling discouraged that you still have 50 pounds to lose….or that you’ve gained 10 back… about rejoicing that you are still lighter today than you were 2 months or 2 weeks ago.  Instead of feeling bad that you can only do 3 sit-ups or walk a little ways without tiring, how about rejoicing that you can do THREE sit-ups and CAN walk, even a few steps.  My friend Carol (and many others in this world) would love to be able to do that today because she had her foot amputated on Friday due to diabetes. Instead of me feeling sad that I can’t be in the same room with the man I am going to marry because of life circumstances, I need to rejoice that I get to be with him on many weekends.   Instead of focusing on what little progress you feel you have made….how about rejoicing that you are not the same person today as you were a few months ago….even if you weigh the same ( or more or less)…because you are changing the way you think; the way you react; and the way you act.  NONE of us are where we want to be….NONE of us are perfect….NONE of us have the perfect life; the perfect body; the perfect relationship; the perfect journey……but we ALL ARE A WORK IN PROGRESS and we are better today….stronger; wiser; kinder, and more loving today….than we were yesterday.  Compared to THAT……well…. we have much to be thankful for. Don’t’ give up; don’t lose hope; don’t despair…regardless of the size tag on the jacket; regardless of the number facing you on the scale; regardless of the stressors in your life.  YOU ARE making progress…YOU ARE….better today than yesterday…..YOU ARE….beautiful, capable, loveable, and worthy… spite of your imperfections. 

Finally, I encourage each of you that are on a weight loss journey to take a selfie today, even if you HATE your picture being taken.  Hang on to a few pieces of your ‘fat clothes.” Take note of what you can physically do…how far you can walk…or how many steps you can climb without losing your breath…and write it down.  A few months from now….or whenever you feel discouraged….you can look at the picture or try on those pants and compare your progress. Even as little as 15 pounds will show up in your face and you will see progress.  Don’t lose heart my friends…..we may not be what we want to be….but Thank GOD we aren’t what we used to be!!!!

Sunday, March 1, 2015

It's a brand new life for me!

Today is March 1st…..a day of celebration and gratitude for me, for several reasons. Today is the anniversary of my New Life journey. Four years ago today, my life was very different. I weighed 428 pounds, could barely take more than a couple of steps without the use of a mobility device or walker. I was barely functioning and was living in a very dark place, both physically and emotionally, and yet, God, in His great goodness, chose to bless me with a miracle and change my life in ways that I never even imagined possible. You know the story….you know the pain….you’ve seen the pictures…..of the old life I left behind. (If not, check out my website  .  I am overwhelmed with gratitude to a God who rescued me from the darkness of despair and hopelessness, and set me free from the fear, shame, obesity, pain, and sadness that once weighed me down.

Those of you that know my story are aware that my life has changed dramatically over these past four years, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually, but my every-day life has changed as well because of the media coverage and publicity my miracle has generated.  It’s been both fun…and challenging….to share my story around the world via TV, magazines, radio, and internet….but never, in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that the media coverage of this miracle would alter my future as it has today.  Let me explain…..

A little over a year ago, on Thanksgiving Day 2013, chose to pick up a feature story that I did for CNN and run that story on the front page of their website.  It was a re-run and I was not notified that the story would circulate again, but I quickly discovered it when my e-mail box was suddenly flooded with hundreds of new e-mails. Every time the story is printed or told, it generates an influx of new mail.  Thanksgiving night was no exception.  The exception, however, was that over ALL THE E-MAIL I received that night, I only opened ONE: a note from a man by the name of Bruce Starkey from Columbus, Ohio.

The words that Bruce wrote in his e-mail stirred my soul and I invited him to follow my blog and join my Facebook group: WE CAN CHANGE OUR LIVES.  He did, and began to read my words and follow my story each day. A few weeks later, he called me on the phone and we spoke for several hours that day. We quickly became friends and have spent the past year developing a special friendship, sharing our individual stories and getting to know each other through hours and hours of phone conversations each day, letters, and texts, all while continuing to live our separate lives in separate states; neither of us looking for or expecting anything more.

During this time, however, God was preparing our hearts for a new kind of journey….a journey full of love, hope, and commitment…and when we met for the first time in the same room, we both knew that our lives would never be the same and that God had used my ‘weight loss journey” to bring us together for a new journey as a couple.   And so…this weekend….on my “new life” anniversary weekend, Bruce asked me to spend the rest of my life as his partner….his companion….his wife…..and I said, “YES!”  I am incredibly happy, but somewhat apprehensive to think about getting married for the first time at age 51, but completely overwhelmed with gratitude to a God who blessed me with a truly loving, caring, and kind man who has treated me with love and respect.  I have been abundantly blessed once again!

The road ahead is unknown because we have many things to figure out. Bruce is still living in Columbus; I am in northern Michigan and we only get to see each other on weekends. We each have jobs and homes to consider. We have separate lives to join together and are uncertain where we will live, what we will do, when we will marry, etc…but we share a faith and a belief that the God who brought us together in such a unique way will direct our steps and lighten our path….and regardless of where the road leads, we are grateful to be traveling it together.

Four years ago today: Obesity, immobility, despair, and pain.  Today: Freedom, improved health, hope, joy, love……with an incredible man to share my journey…to walk beside me….to bring out the best in me…and to encourage, support, and love me along the way.  Today I rejoice….and give thanks…..first to my God who set me free and gave me the grace  to change my life…..and to Bruce, whose persistence, patience, compassion, and love has changed my future.  To God…be the glory….today and always!