Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The 4 Pound Dilemma

Last week, I stepped on the scale at the doctor’s office, wishing I’d worn lighter (weight-wise) clothing. I’d forgotten that I’d be weighed. (That attests to the fact that my life had been so busy, my mind had not always engaged with the details of upcoming activities.) What women doesn’t choose her clothing carefully when she knows she will be stepping on a scale? Okay, maybe Paris Hilton, but I wouldn’t count on it.
The numbers flickered, a digital frenzy, and stopped at 4 pounds less than I expected. Wait, did I read that right? Is that really what I saw? Were my eyes giving out? After all, I’m 60 now. I asked the nurse to confirm the number. She did.
Suddenly, I felt better! I stood taller. My step was lighter. I was floating over the loss of 4 pounds. I couldn’t believe how good I felt about myself. What changed in that flutter-of-an-eyelash moment when the numbers popped up? 
I thought I had a handle on my relationship with my body when I tossed out my at-home scale a couple years ago. No more would a number dictate how I felt about myself. I would love my body with all its sags, rolls and wrinkles. I’d eat as right as I could, do yoga, walk and not fret about weight. While the walking had been sporadic, apparently that plan worked for me. But, I wouldn’t have known it if I hadn’t stepped on that scale. 
Over the next couple days, I kept asking myself why the number on a scale held so much power in my life? Had I kept my old scale and weighed in once a week, would I have felt this good for the last year, year-and-a-half? Probably not. Most likely, I would have decided that I needed to lose an additional 4 pounds. 
As I continued to think about it, I found myself saying things like --
 “I could lose 5 more pounds. Then I’d look and feel even better.” 
“The weight loss is probably because I’m not walking as often as I used to. I lost muscle weight. The fat is still there.” 
“Oh s***, now that I know my weight is in a good range, I’ll probably relax and overeat.” 
I am still obsessing over weight!
During this process, I managed to kill my high from the doctor’s office. Bummer.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

What is in Your Top Left-Hand Coat Pocket?

In “The Language of Life,” poet, Coleman Barks tell the following story to Bill Moyers:
Nasruddin is on a train and the conductor comes to pick up the tickets, but Nasruddin can’t find his ticket. He looks in his pants pocket, he looks in his briefcase, he looks in his suitcase, he starts looking in other peoples’ suitcases, but he can’t find his ticket. Finally the conductor says, “Nasruddin, I know you’ve got your ticket. Most people keep theirs in their top left-hand coat pocket. Why don’t you look there?” And Nasruddin says, “Don’t even mention that. If it’s not there I have no hope. 
There have been times in my life, more than I care to mention, when the fear of not being able to succeed kept me from even trying. (i.e. I’ve spent too much time avoiding a blank newly stretched canvas, terrified that I couldn’t bring to that canvas the image that was in my head.)  Better to think, “I could have been,” than to know I wasn’t good enough, smart enough, or talented enough to reach my goal.  
A lot of us feel this way. It’s the paralyzing fear that we will discover we are not who we hope we are. And if we aren’t who we hope we are, who are we? Do we really want to know the answer to that question? Is that why we look for our train ticket in other people’s suitcases, even though we know full well it’s not there?
On the other hand, If we do reach our goal, what will we do next? Is our career over? Will everyone expect more from us than we can provide?  (Figure skaters are already doing quadruples. Will they be doing pentaruples, next? Or octoruples?) Success can hurdle us upward until we eventually reach the top of our ability. Then what?
By fumbling around and making excuses while we search for our ticket, we don’t have to face what may happen. We can hold onto hope. Had I clung to hope and not acted on my desire to write, But He’ll Change would never have been published. I would not be talking on Facebook and through emails with the most extraordinary and courageous women I’ve ever met. Women who experienced what it means to do the thing you fear most and succeed.
If you have a deep and persistent passion, one that fills your heart with ecstasy just thinking about it, there’s a good chance that passion is what you are meant to be doing with your life. And if that is so, all your life experiences have prepared you for this very moment, this decision point. You have to do the work (I’m not promising you that it’ll be easy,) but first, you have to reach in your pocket and pull out that ticket, taking a chance that the positive outcome you hope for will become your reality. 
And, hey, even if you don’t end up where you thought you would, it doesn’t mean you’re a failure, it means you are one step closer to where you should be. Thomas Edison said, “I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Let Me Fall

One of my favorite songs is Let Me Fall, from Cirque du Soleil. It’s sung by Josh Groban. The hunting melody and Groban’s resonant tenor voice is as delicious as the first bite of my dad’s Sunday morning, paper-thin, Swedish pancakes, drenched in real butter and New England maple syrup. 
It’s the yearning in the song, the sweet ache of desire, that speaks to me through the words, 
“Let me fall, Let me climb
There’s a moment when fear and dreams must collide.
Someone I am, is waiting for courage
The one I want, the one I will become will catch me
So Let me fall, If I must fall...” 
I would love to have seen the Cirque du Soliel performance to this song. Was it a trapeze act? Imagine the flyer teetering some 50 feet up in the air on a tiny slat, she jumps to grasp the trapeze. She thrusts herself forward, then back, then forward again. Releasing her grip on the bar, she throws her legs over her head and tucks in, spinning - one, two, three summersaults. She reaches for the hands of the catcher, trusting that they will be exactly where they were at each practice. 
The audience gasps. 
Hands clasp wrists. 
The audience goes wild, applauding and shouting!
Did you notice that I mentioned the practice? These acrobats didn’t start by doing this 50 feet in the air. However, I bet, for the flyer, that first time felt like they were way-the-heck up there. 
That’s how I felt after leaving an abusive relationship. Living with domestic abuse doesn’t change the core of who you are, but it skews your view of who you are. The abuser tramples your self-esteem into the ground, then snuffs it out as if it were a cigarette butt. He (or she) teaches you that if you make a mistake, you will pay dearly. (And all the while, they keep changing the rules to ensure you make plenty of mistakes.) As a result, I’d freeze, paralyzed, when faced with a decision. 
Let me just say, the beginning trapeze artist has a safety belt with ropes held tightly by guys with biceps the size of Texas. I too, had a support base that was my life line. But still, teetering on the brink of my new life, I had to find the courage to throw my arms wide and leap. I had to push through the fear to take that step.
 There was plenty of faltering and falling on my journey. But, like the flyer, over time and with practice, I’ve learned to release the trapeze, spin in the air and reach out, clasping wrists with my catcher. Heart pounding, I look up to see that my catcher is me, the one I will become. Isn’t that the point? With each leap of faith, with each fall, we grow more into the one who we are meant to be.