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!!!!!