Jump On Life Today!

Several years ago, after attending another boring but educational lecture, I had an idea.  What if we sponsored a breakfast speakers series that would be inspirational in nature — people could come for breakfast and leave ready to try new things, step outside their comfort zones.  I even had a name for the series, JOLT (Jump on Life Today).  I shared the idea with some colleagues, to lukewarm response.  So, I dropped the idea.

Flash forward to earlier this academic year, when I brought out the JOLT idea and shared it with my friend Tricia, our campus counseling center director, and Layne, an amazing young professional in my department.  They met, without me I might add, and decided that it was time this idea became a reality.  The three of us collaborated, brainstormed, and began the series in February.  Yesterday, we held our third JOLT event and it was amazing!

Our speaker, Dr. Deann Fitzgerald (check out her website http://www.docfitzgerald.com) blew us away.  Dr. Fitzgerald and her team have changed lives in a big way both here in Cedar Rapids, and in Kenya (their latest project will bring clean water to 32,000 people).  She talked about failures (“they’re all outcomes…you just like some outcomes better than others”) and she talked about inspiration and passion being things that you have to go looking for…they don’t just appear.  They come when you take a step forward — in any direction — and decide to take another step.  She also says this is the way each person can change the world:  one step at a time.

After Dr. Fitzgerald finished speaking, she gave her email address and encouraged everyone to write if they had questions, ideas, or wanted to create change in the world.  I listened to people saying they want to go on medical mission trips, that they were moved and inspired to act by being in Dr. Fitzgerald’s presence…and that is when it hit me that JOLT was serving as a vehicle for inspiration — just what I imagined it could be when I first had the idea.

One thing that stands out for me today as I have spent some time reflecting on this experience is that I let naysayers prevent me from jumping on life, from taking a step forward in a direction I was inspired to go.  Thank God for Tricia and Layne, who talked back to the negative voices (those of my colleagues, and those in my head which suggested that others knew better than I).  They gave me a true gift when they joined hands with me to take that first step.  I am thinking it is about time for me to trust my own inspiration and creative energy.  Next time, I take the step forward on my own.

On feeling discouraged

It is a short step from satisfied to discouraged when you are on a weight loss journey: the length of the step from the bare wood floor onto the scale.  No matter how well you’ve stayed on track, what you’ve eaten, how you’ve exercised, it feels like you simply didn’t try hard enough if the digital number reads the same as last time you stepped on — or, worse, if it reads higher.

The dictionary says discourage means “to deprive of courage or confidence: dishearten”.  While I was looking it up, I saw a bunch of other “dis” words that describe how I felt this morning:  discomfited, disequilibrium, disgrace, disgust (I won’t bore you with each definition).  How easy it is to fall into the trap of allowing negative emotion to overwhelm us.

One way to combat the disheartened feeling is to find inspiration in those around us who have taken on the task of real life change.  I am lucky enough to have numerous examples around me:  Tammy, who has gone back to school in an accelerated night program in addition to working full-time and raising two beautiful daughters; Jen D., who has lost a whopping 47 pounds and counting; Rhonda who has taken control of her own physical health even though that journey has sometimes been scary.

Real change, whether you are working on your habits or your habitual thought patterns, takes courage.  It takes heart.  But even the most motivated among us has down days.  The trick is to find a way to bring yourself back up.  I found a few “dis” words in the dictionary to help with that, too:

  • Disencumber yourself of unrealistic expectations
  • Disembarrass yourself — all journeys have ups and downs
  • Dismiss negative self-talk
  • Dispel the fog of disappointment and take courage and inspiration from those around you.

No egrets…

In my January 15 reflection posted on this blog I wrote:

“Finally, I received a small package in the mail today from Jan Crawford in California.  She included a bag full of little glass hearts and her card read, “Just a little BAG OF LOVE to remind you how many hearts are behind you…”  I have been handing out glass hearts to people this afternoon.  I know Jan will understand my impulse to “share the love”; so often we assume that others know we care without any outward expression of it.  Please know, whether you received a little glass heart today or not, you are loved.”

This morning Jan Crawford passed away from cancer.  Jan, my friend Wendy’s mother, was a woman with a huge personality — when people say someone is a “force of nature”, Jan is the type of person they are describing.  The size of her personality was matched only by the size of her heart.   She loved Wendy, and took into her heart every person who was part of Wendy’s life…which is how Jan came into my life. 

For Christmas a year ago, Jan sent me 12 t-shirts, each bearing a different sassy phrase:  “I am currently away from my office”, “Teamwork means a bunch of people doing what I say”, “Sarcasm, just another service I offer.”  When I joined Sister’s Health Club last March, I wore a different shirt each of my first twelve workouts.  The other women at the club said they couldn’t wait each morning to see what my shirt would say, and their curiousity and enjoyment broke the ice and helped us develop a sense of comaraderie.  No one knew what to say the day I wore my personal favorite — “Egrets…I’ve had a few…”

In January, when Jan sent the package I wrote about, she was already well into her fight with cancer.   That she took the time to encourage me when she was feeling so ill meant a great deal.  In February and early March, I received several small packages, each containing items Jan was passing on to me: a book of poetry, napkins with a humorous theme, a favorite quote that had been hanging on the wall in her office.  While it is true that Jan, like all of us, had her idiosynchrasies and flaws, what I have come back to again and again is one characteristic that will stick with me:  Jan was fiercely generous.  

Tonight, those who were close to Jan are, I imagine, feeling many things.  My heart goes out to them.  What I am feeling is gratitude for the many generous gifts Jan brought to the lives of those around her, including mine.  May we all discover this fierce generosity within our own hearts!

Growth

I shocked my parents on Saturday by telling them I had been in my yard…doing yardwork.  Perhaps more than anything else I’ve told them about recent changes in my life, this one fact had the effect of solidifying their belief that something transformational has occurred. (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a little for effect, but I know it blew them away!)

When I decided to get busy in the yard, I suddenly realized I had neither tools (not even a rake!) nor knowledge of what to do.  My trip to Ace Hardware was an adventure, and the salesman refrained from laughing (much) when I explained that I wasn’t even sure what I would need first.  I left, the proud owner of a rake, a claw-thingy, a trowel, a sturdy pair of clippers and work gloves.  Later, after two hours of bending and squatting, my quads and glutes were complaining but the “yardie” was full and ready for its maiden voyage to the curb.  I was full of the satisfaction of hard work as I sat in the sun and dialed my parents’ number.

This morning, as I stand at the french doors in my dining room and look at the half-cleared plant bed bordering my patio, I can see several inches of new growth on the hostas and the various bulbs which, until Saturday, had been obscured and choked by approximately three years worth of detritus. In some ways, I feel like the plants surrounding my patio, putting tender new leaves and buds into the open for the first time. 

People and plants.  We thrive best when we are able to clear away debris from the past and lift our faces toward the sun of a new day.

Endings and Beginnings

“It is totally new, wholly unexpected

and almost palpable aliveness

that wakes me on this Easter morning…”

These words, from a poem I wrote more than 20 years  ago (titled “Easter 1986”) could easily have been written this very morning.   I woke, before my 7:00 a.m. alarm, and lay in bed, wondering what I would write today about this journey we’ve been on together since Thanksgiving.  And as I contemplated, I was overcome with a feeling I couldn’t name at first, but have finally recognized:  joy.  

To say that this has been a life-altering experience would almost be an understatement!  Some things that have altered for me? 

  • I feel, underneath the daily ups and downs, a constant sense of well-being.  As I have fought bronchitis and sinus and ear infections these past few weeks, for example, I have continued to feel emotionally centered and happy.
  • Rather than feeling lonely much of the time, I feel connected to others even when I am alone.  I know my peeps have got my back!
  • I find myself saying “Yes” more often than “No”.  Yes to new experiences, yes to new friends, yes to risks and challenges.

When you spend much of your life in hiding — under layers of fat, writing in journals that no one else ever reads, pretending that you are fine and happy so no one feels sorry for you — coming out of your hiding places is really scary.  I didn’t know that’s what I was doing when I started this challenge, though I got pretty nervous as soon as it was time to post my beginning weight. 

I also didn’t know, back in November, that what I was emerging into was a place of love, friendship, support.  You have walked with me every step of this journey, listening to my story and gifting me with yours.  There is literally no way to express the magnitude of the gratitude I feel.  Thank you.

I have been asked if I will continue to blog and/or post my weight now that this 18-week odyssey is over.  I will do both — with today’s weigh in I am 100 pounds lighter than I was four years ago.  The next 80-90 pounds will hopefully take less than 4 years!  I will be continuing on the journey to become the person I wish to be — I’m taking on a new 3-month challenge at my health club, and I still have Run The Flood to prepare for.  I do not expect that each of you will continue to read, though I invite you to share — in comments on this blog or via email (or in person!) your journeys and challenges so that the support and positive movement can be mutual.

I also pledge to continue to support hunger relief — and have set a goal for myself to complete at least 60 volunteer hours specifically for hunger relief between now and next Easter (I’ve suddenly become goal-oriented…never expected that outcome either!).  That’s about an hour a week (rounded up).  Not much, but more than I’ve committed to in the past. 

Our donation, currently at $1394 (at the per pound rate of $41), will include the difference between the $3 per pound and $300 minimum donation I said I would make — which puts us over the $1500 mark!  WOO-HOO! Thanks to those of you who either voted or donated your votes to me.  Our donation will be going to the local Meals on Wheels organization.  I would like all our donations to go together to Meals on Wheels, and will send specific instructions to sponsors via email.  There will definitely be a blog post with the final donation amount when that is made!

It is so fitting to be celebrating the close of this  journey on Easter — the day we celebrate resurrection into new life.  Thank you for helping me to launch a new life for myself and for contributing to those who would otherwise go hungry.  May this season of resurrection bring new life to each of you, as well.

i thank You God for most this amazing

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
wich is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

— ee cummings