Friday, October 9, 2015

When did THAT happen?

How/When did that happen?  As I was driving home from work yesterday I noticed that the large maples near my home have now been clothed with brilliant color. Weren’t they green on Monday? As I drove into my driveway, I noticed that the one in my backyard has nearly shed its leaves already. I pondered to myself…Hmm….when did that happen?

One of the joys of Facebook is that I can connect with so many people and share in their lives. I enjoy seeing photos of children and grandchildren, and reading posts, especially at the beginning of a school year when parents lament, “I can’t believe my baby is starting kindergarten; going to high school; leaving for college, etc.” The same sentiment occurs in many of us when we notice for the first time that our loved ones have slowed down, gotten frail, or grown old, often without us noticing.  Hmm….when/how did that happen?

So often we become so busy with “life” that we fail to notice things happening/changing around us.  Worse than that: we fail to notice our blessings.  Kids grow up; parents get old; the seasons come and go….and we are busy ‘living”….whatever that means.  For many of us, “living” means “making a living, working, cleaning, running errands, doing ‘stuff”….that takes up our time, but often robs us of the time to really realize how quickly time passes.  Some of us get so preoccupied with “reaching our goal….losing that magic number….etc.” that we fail to enjoy the process of getting there.  While all of the above, including changing our lives, are worthy and necessary tasks (after all, we have to work, clean, eat, etc.), we have to remember that time is a precious gift that can’t be taken for granted.  Finding balance is so critical….so that we don’t wake up one day and realize that we missed out on time with loved ones, time to enjoy God’s creation, and time to give thanks….has run out.

In terms of our personal journey, we can also wake up one day and ask ourselves, “Hmm….how/when did that happen?”  How did we get to weigh over 250 or more pounds? When did we go from a size 8 to a 3X? How did we end up addicted?  How did a particular vice turn into such a problem?  Oftentimes, a serious medical scare occurs and suddenly we realize that those 10 pounds we’ve gained every year that went unnoticed have now become 100.  . Sometimes, it’s discovering that a couple of beers with friends has turned into a nightly habit or that the people we live with are more like strangers than loved ones and we have to face the hard question of “when/how” did that happen?

So often the pounds creep on and we don’t even notice; we simply buy a bigger size….and then…..we see a picture of ourselves and we’re shocked or we step on a scale and we are horrified. When…how….did THAT happen?  I had absolutely no idea that I weighed over 400 pounds when I started my journey.  Certainly I was aware that I was overweight, but not a number; I simply didn’t care. I was too busy just trying to exist/function/cope with the pain, loss, and disability of obesity and RA. I can’t even remember when I realized that a cane no longer was enough to support my weight and I needed a walker/wheelchair. It just “happened” and I just got heavier and heavier, without even really noticing it….UNTIL…. I hit rock-bottom. 

A major part of my healing/journey has been to seriously reflect on the “How/why” did I ever allow myself to get to that point in my life. It just sort of “happened” without my realizing it, or perhaps, dealing with it was just too painful so I chose to ignore the reality. We do the same thing when we allow ourselves to become too busy/committed with STUFF we think we have to do so we don’t have to deal with the wayward teenager, accept the frailty of a loved one, confront our addiction, focus on a problem, grieve a loss, etc. We use food, work, exercise, booze, shopping, busy-ness….you name it….to fill a void that we often have no idea even exists.

When we finally realize that we have to make some changes in our lives, it is very important that we remember that we didn’t gain all of our weight in a period of a few weeks/months, barring pregnancy.  We didn’t just become a 3-pack a day smoker the day we lit our first cigarette. We didn’t become addicted to pills, booze, shopping, overnight. While I’m not an expert in addiction, I think it is a gradual pattern of behavior that just escalates until one day we realize that we have a problem.  The point I’m trying to make isn’t how we become addicted to things, but rather that it took time to get to the point where we have a serious problem to address. Likewise….it takes time to become well/healthy again.  It’s not going to happen overnight, even though the latest ads of TV or in the magazines promise that it will!  We aren’t just going to lose 100 pounds in 2 months without some medical intervention.  We aren’t going to restore/repair/heal a broken relationship in a couple of hours.  We are on a journey that is a day-by-day, often excruciatingly SLOW, life-long process of transformation; one that takes consistent, daily effort and attention.

Because our transformation is often so slow and we….or others around us….don’t seem to notice our progress, we can often become discouraged and want to give up.  We might change our eating habits and be consistent with our exercise for weeks at a time, and the scale doesn’t seem to move. We might even drop a size or two and our spouses or friends don’t even comment….or notice.  We might look in the mirror and see the same fat person staring back at us and feel depressed and wonder why we are even trying.  But yet….just like those trees that are changing color right before our eyes and those children/grandchildren that are growing up around us….THINGS are happening.  We ARE being changed from the inside out; we might just be too hung up on the other STUFF like ‘numbers” to notice it. We  might just be too busy to even realize how much progress we are making.  Little things…like zipping your pants up without having to lay on the bed and suck in your gut; bending down to tie your shoes and realizing you can do it without hyperventilating, or moving your belt over a notch are happening right in front of our eyes and are the good kind of things that make you go, “Hmm….when did THAT happen?” 

I spent a great deal of time early this morning reflecting on my own journey and I realized that there are so many blessings around me that I fail to notice because I am so busy. The autumn color lasts only a few weeks in northern Michigan so this afternoon I am going to take a drive in the country to enjoy the sunshine that is promised for later today. I am going to remember to give thanks to God for everything. I’m going to focus less on how much I have to do this weekend and more on how grateful I am for the improved health that allows me to do so. I’m going to focus less on how hard it is to eat healthy all the time and more on how blessed I am to live in an area where fresh fruits/vegetables is readily available. I’m going to focus on the wonderful people in my life, rather than on the things that need to be done before winter, so I don’t wake up one day….old…alone…sad….bitter….whatever….and wonder, “When/how did THAT happen?” 

PS…on a practical note… make sure you take a lot of pictures as you progress through your journey so when you have a moment of doubt/discouragement you can look back and realize, that CHANGE…is happening, even if you don’t notice it!

Have a great weekend!