I really thought I had it all figured out.
I honestly did believe that I had solved my problem. That I had moved past what was holding me back, and freed myself from all of the things that had kept me trapped inside of myself all of those years. I thought it was over once I finally shed the weight.
After all, I had worked really hard to lose over 150 pounds. I had put my nose to the grind stone and sacrificed more than I ever thought I could to give myself a chance at a healthy life. I put 100% of my effort into changing my life for the better, and I was hell-bent on never looking back. I was never going back to the way things were. I was adamant that I was never going to allow myself to undo what I had so purposefully done. And I wasn’t even a tiny bit worried that I might falter. I was Teflon, and I had put on a brave face.
That was my first mistake.
Because, truth be told, deep down, there was a lingering doubt. I always did feel like it was a little too good to be true. I had such great success all during my weight loss journey, that I started to wonder if I was just fooling myself. And the closer that I got to my final goal, I began to get nervous.
I had tried so many times to lose the weight in the past, so what had been so different this time? What was the catch?
Invariably something unforeseen would get in the way and derail me. Always my success would be hindered by some form of self sabotage, or an inevitable motivation meltdown.
I started having an undercurrent of anxiety the closer I got to my goal, waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was outwardly excited and eager to finish what I had started, but still secretly cautious of failure. And as a result, I began having a recurring nightmare that I couldn’t shake. It was always there on the outskirts of my consciousness haunting me.
Because, in the dream, it always played out in the same scenario. I would find myself at my meeting for my final weigh in. And when I would step onto the scale and finally see that number that I had worked so hard for, that seemingly impossible number that I had longed for…everything would go dark. A young woman who resembled my late grandmother would appear, and with her hand outstretched, she would tell me that it was time to go. She would go on to explain to me, that a year earlier, during my surgery, complications had arisen, and they were not able to save me. And since I had passed on without having had the opportunity to fulfill this promise to myself, and she had given me the gift of seeing it through to help me move on. And now my time was up. The curtain had gone down on the stage after the final act. I had finished what I had set out to do, and now it was done.
I would always wake up with a nagging feeling that would linger.
That dream really shook me.
It dug in deep and ignited all of the fears that I had about being vulnerable. That somehow I did not deserve this great and coveted success.
In fact, I had the dream so many times, that on the day I actually weighed in at goal, I found myself holding my breath just a little, because I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen or not.
So once the goal day came and went without incident, I not only breathed a huge sigh of relief, but I decided that there was no more time for doubt, no more precious moments to be spent on worrying. So I thought if I threw all of my energy into enjoying my new reality without giving any thought to the struggles of my past, that somehow what came before would have no bearing on what was to come after.
And that was my second mistake.
Because that is not the true nature of how these things work. There was a reason why I lived my life for so long unfulfilled at 293 pounds. There were a lot of reasons, quite honestly, why I allowed my life to get so far out of the scope of where I wanted it to be. And those reasons were important. Those behaviors and those patterns were deeply ingrained after all of that time. I might’ve had a new body, but I hadn’t taken the time or the the care to be sure that I also had a new mindset, or an awareness of how to stay that way.
Instincts are strong, and when you don’t think that of much of your capabilities to begin with, your destructive instincts can be stronger than you realize.
It wasn’t until this year, when everything seemingly fell apart, that I started collecting all of those scattered pieces of myself off the floor that had been haphazardly taped and glued into place, and began the arduous task of putting it all back together again. Turns out, that the fortress I had built, had a crack in the foundation, and no matter how well the rest of it was constructed, it could not withstand the test of time.
It needed to be torn down, repaired, and rebuilt so that it could be stronger, and more formidable.
You see, during that 19 month period where I was on my weight-loss journey, I was so focused on the end goal that I could not, and would not be detoured. Emotional baggage is weighty and messy, and in order to streamline the process and stay focused, I had put my game face on. In fact, if anything popped up along the way that had tried to rain on my parade, I quickly scooped it up put it into my “later” closet.
You know that closet that you have, that has everything piled up in it. A hodgepodge of knickknacks and random clutter. That closet, that when you clean in a hurry because someone is unexpectedly stopping by, it holds all of the scattered disarray that is lying about that you want out of sight.
But out of sight, out of mind doesn’t mean it’s dealt with. It just means it postpones the task for another time, another day. And if you do that often enough, the closet gets full. Full the brim with everything you wish to ignore until “later”. And pretty soon, the day will come when you cannot fit anything else into that closet. You can only open the door a crack for fear of disturbing its contents. You can only shove things in there so many times and still get the door closed.
That closet becomes a monster lying in wait, ready to devour you when you least expect it.
It becomes an avalanche waiting to bury you.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Earlier this year on the heels of a People Magazine feature on PEOPLE.com for their Half Their Size annual issue, I was feeling pretty good about my accomplishments.
I had maintained my goal weight for over two years with minimal struggle, and I felt as though those days of navigating limitations were finally behind me. But as they sometimes do, circumstances lent themselves to a rude awakening in mid February when I had suffered a serious injury to my tailbone.
Suddenly I was thrown off course.
I floundered in my revised reality with accepting the limitations of my newly altered circumstances. And ironically, I also realized, that with my physical strength now compromised, it was going to be that same sorely under nurtured mental strength,that I had so foolishly neglected, that would be the very lifeline that I needed to cling to.
I had watched other friends that had suffered unexpected setbacks, and I had admired their perseverance in the wake if their own misfortunes.
But what I soon discovered, was that I sorely overestimated my own ability to walk down the uncharted path that I had found myself on. The other shoe HAD finally dropped, and I did whatever I could to stay positive. I tried to ignore my own growing sense of dread and the implications of that monumental adjustment. My previously surpressed fear of success was now colliding with my potentially spiraling failure. It seemed to all but validate it. And then, when I opened that closet door one more time to add all of my new found worry into the monolithic pile… well that’s when it all came crashing down.
And before I knew what had happened, I found myself buried at the bottom of a deluge of all of those things that I had not dealt with. A debris field that had accumulated over all of those years of avoidance.
It was time to do a different kind of work. It was time to start sifting deliberately through the emotional wreckage, because I needed to do something before I found myself circling the drain.
I started to try to make sense of it all by telling all of those untold stories that I needed to tell. I needed to expose the wounds that I had covered up in order to allow them to heal. And then something amazing happened…
The more I purged my soul, the more I found the link between the me that I used to be, and the me that I had now become. I began to find the common ground where all of the stories met in the middle, and where little bits of irony cast light onto the true nature of things.
I began to see the big picture, the full circle of events, and why it’s so important to do both the physical transformation as well as the mental one.
And so began the year of the purge.
Understanding and reconciling myself with where I had been, began to enlighten and illuminate my understanding of where I am. So I took it one step further. I began to purge within my material life as well.
I began going through my house room by room, and purging everything that I had been ceremoniously hanging onto for no apparent reason. And you know what? It felt good.
It felt good to rid myself of all of those drawers and cluttered closet’s and piles in my garage. The more I got rid of, the lighter I felt.
And all those pounds of physical weight that I had put back on after my injury? Well once the emotional weight started to disperse, they finally started coming back off too.
And the more I purged both my emotional and physical clutter, the more focused I felt, the stronger I felt, the more equipped I felt to deal with the next unforeseen circumstance. It has been a long but necessary process that will forever leave it’s mark. But it has been a year that has shaped me, with lessons that I will carry into all of the years to come.
This year has brought so many challenges, that at some point, I stopped counting. It was like a series of unfortunate events. It wasn’t just the injury and the weight gain. Things broke down (a lot of things broke down)-like cars, and electrical panels, appliances and water heaters. Plumbing issues arose. There was a flood, jobs were lost, friends and family members faced serious health issues…and people died. It felt like alot of people died. There were financial strains, and unexpected disasters. And at its worst, an overwhelming sense of dread that things were never going to get better. I admit, there was a point at which I considered waving the white flag, and staying down after the hits just kept on coming. I was battle weary and defeated.
But I am a survivor.
And as the concept of Yin Yang teaches us, where there is darkness, there is also a light. Where there is negative, the positive still exists. And where there is bad, one can also seek out the good. And without fail, I still ended each and every day finding my one happy moment to put into my happiness jar.
The year of the purge has been a bittersweet blessing, and it has left me with a wisdom that I feel I have earned. And now, not only can I comfortably fit my car into my garage, but I can also comfortably fit myself into my body…and my body into my realistic expectations.
Every experience in our lives has something to teach us, and we never know what that is until the lesson has been learned.
Sometimes, you never know what you’re capable of until you have to be, and knowing your limitations, although humbling, can lead you to overcoming them.
And for that epiphany, I am grateful.
For that, I will remember the year of the purge was the year that I truly found my way out of the dark by following the light at every turn.
And now, I will sit down on New year’s Eve, and sift through the contents my happiness jar, and remind myself of all of the small recorded moments that might have otherwise slipped through the cracks during the barrage of 2016 hail fire.
For 2017 can truly be a new beginning, because it just so happens that 17 is my lucky number.
I was born on the 17th, I met my fiancé on the 17th, we got engaged on the 17th, and now, in 2017, back at my goal weight, I will plan our wedding.
And on 10/7 (which added together equals 17) I will finally marry that wonderful man that never doubted my comeback. That strong man, that stood up, gave me his hand, and helped me up off the floor every time 2016 knocked me down. That amazing man that always believed in me, even when I didn’t. That loving man that gave me his eyes with which to see myself when I was too afraid to look in the mirror. And on that day, I will not only promise to continue to love him, but to also continue to love myself no matter where this life takes us.
Purging all of the clutter, both emotional and physical this year, has given me new space in my life to grow even more into the person, the mother, the wife, and the friend that I am proud to be.
So bring it 2017. I’m ready.