How many times have I been approached to support someone, help, coach, guide, give advice and kick ass? Honestly, quite a few. And not one time that someone came to me did I ever think that they were weak or useless or pathetic for not being able to figure it out by themselves. Never one time did I refuse to help someone because I felt that they could only grow and succeed by doing it alone. Never. And yet these past months when I’ve been in a pretty dark, cold place, it never occurred to me to put myself out on someone’s good graces and ask for help. Until this past week.
Why this past week? Because one of the wide screen computer monitors on my desk isn’t working right now. What that means is that it’s a black, shiny, reflective surface and I have been sitting at my desk for 8 hours a day pretty much looking in a mirror. Looking at the weight I’ve gained, looking at how much has changed, looking at where I was and where I’m going. During my ruminating I’ve been horribly mean to myself and surprisingly understanding at the same time. To be completely honest, if you ever saw someone doing the things that I was doing this last year it would not have taken you one split second to figure out that there was something very wrong and that this person, me, was screaming out for help, desperately looking for some sort of comfort and stability. Only……everything I did was in secret.
This week I sent this email to my sister:
“ I feel like such a bag of worthless crap. Try as I might I cannot seem to get my fat ass out of bed in the morning to go to the gym. HELP.”
Sounds a bit harsh, I guess. It’s a fairly honest example of how I’ve been feeling. Several emails went back and forth and my sister said some important things:
- You are not a worthless bag of fat assed crap
- I don’t think it’s necessary to beat yourself up
- You’re still in the throes of change right now
- Try every day to go to the gym. And on the days that you didn’t go, it’s not a failure, it’s an opportunity to try again tomorrow.
She also offered me suggestions on non-gym things I could incorporate into my day, she sent me a meaningful quote and she suggested an option for getting underway. Do I already know all of these things? Sure. But what I needed (and got) was support, someone to know where I am and that I’m struggling, someone to take 5 minutes out of their own life and help me figure my shit out.
Then, later in the week, I was reading a blog of a distant friend and before I knew it I’d posted a comment asking for help.
“Oh, dude, seriously, I really, REALLY want to be on an up cycle and it is kicking the shit out of me that I can’t get there. Kicking. My. Shit. How…….please tell me how you got a solid up-cycle going….because I need to get one going and this is the first time since ever (OK, 8 years) that I have not known or been able to drive myself in the right direction.
She responded. She responded with this post and then followed up with such a kind and generous email that I immediately burst into tears. I responded back and in the writing of that response, figured out what some of my problem has been. I have been in amazing shape, I’ve pushed myself hard and then if the roof started to cave in, I pushed even harder. Why? I don’t really know. Partly because there was some pleasure in it for me to be the ex-fatty who had it all figured out and could overcome any obstacle all while punishing my body and never giving myself a break. My distant friend came back and told me that maybe the reasons that I did it all before don’t actually matter, the past is gone. She told me to reinvent new reasons and to love myself and give myself what I need. Not for anyone else’s agenda. She also pretty much told me to check back in; to write to the blog world and tell stories and, I gather, reform some sense of community that I have lost over these hard times.
So there. I asked for help twice….and got more than I ever expected. I got compassion and understanding and ass kicking and suggestions and kindness. I got it from my twin sister and from a friend I’ve only ever emailed with. When Ray got home last night I was a total wreck, crying and berating myself for having gotten so far off my track. In fine man-fashion he had no idea what to do with me besides run the shower and drag me into it. With the mist of the shower matting my hair down and my tears making my mascara run I asked one more person for help…the person who is in it every day with me. And I got it, support and compassion and a cheerleader. He said all the wrong things, all backwards and twisted and beautiful.
So last night after dinner I went and set my gym alarm for the 8th time in a row. I thought about how maybe what I achieved before wasn’t done for the right reasons. That maybe that’s why I was never good enough, strong enough, thin enough. I looked at a picture of myself from 18 months ago and knew that if I wasn’t able to see how fit and slender and muscular I was back then it was because I was looking at the wrong things.
This time…….this new rendition is going to be different. I went to the gym this morning. I tugged on my a-bit-too-tight gym capris and instead of calling myself a fat-ass or a pig I told myself it didn’t matter. It. Does. Not. Matter. When I got on the treadmill and couldn’t (obviously) do what I did 6, 8, 12 months ago, instead of telling myself I was pathetic and what’s-the-point-give-up-you-big-loser, I slowed the speed down, caught my breath and told myself not to worry about it, that every step is an achievement. And then I kept going. When I was done my 2 mile treadmill I went for the rowing machine. And when I had to stop every 500m to catch my breath and drink some water I didn’t think anything besides the fact that the goal was 2000m and however and whenever I got there would be just fine, just keep trying. And I got there, 2 seconds short of 10 minutes.
I can’t do what I did before. Not physically right now (or maybe ever) and certainly not mentally. I cannot wage that war on myself anymore, I just can’t. I love exercise, I love the purity of sweat and the glow of achievement. I love seeing muscle and running further and I love it when I look good in my clothes. But I refuse to get there by any means other than enjoyment, self respect and self love.
This morning when I got back home I showered and then took my “self kindness” one step further. I had an extra 20 minutes and instead of washing the dog dish or sorting laundry or starting breakfast, I poured a coffee and sat on the sofa, alone in the quiet, and read my book. I gave myself 20 minutes of downtime that I don’t otherwise get. I actually have almost no time to myself that isn’t spent making dinner, dog walking or sleeping and as an introvert who recharges herself with quiet alone time, I need it. My reserves are low right now and that 20 minutes meant a lot to me. A. Lot. So much that it solidified everything.
I have no clue what this new path is going to look like. All I know is that I refuse to suffer alone and I refuse to punish myself. Those two right there are game changers.
The last line of Megan’s post yesterday said:
“Remember that you have friends and people who love you. All you have to do is ask. “
Asking for that help….changed everything and I am so grateful for it.