“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that Christ Jesus to hold of me.” Philippians 3:12
Terry and I recently traveled to Rhode Island to visit Ethan, Rachel, and Joel. Excited, we left mid-afternoon, anticipating that we would arrive at their house in six short hours. The last few trips there have gone well despite the chaotic traffic on I-95 in Connecticut. Although this trip would set a record, it was not in the direction we had anticipated. Ten hours later we arrived at our son’s home. The crazy part was all the slow downs happened before we even entered Connecticut! Despite the length of the trip, the time passed quickly. We alternated between listening to podcasts and reading a book aloud. A delightful chapter distracted us from the thirty-minute snail pace it took us to move two miles.
In early August, I wrote Leg Warmers and Body Shame, detailing my attempt to change lifelong messages I had received and accepted about myself. I declared that I was not going to count calories. I would journal about my feelings and work on dismantling the shame. The next day, I left for a birthday celebration only to return a few days later, testing positive for Covid-19. From this point on, nothing has gone as planned. After my initial symptoms disappeared, I struggled to get back into an exercise routine. My stamina was low, and my pace was slow. I also experienced a Rheumatoid Arthritis flare due to my compromised immune system. In essence, my body seemed to be in a bit of shock, and I needed to pay attention to it’s messages by choosing to accept the days I couldn’t exercise. I listened to my body but was admittedly frustrated, sometimes returning to old habits, using food to comfort me.
Recently, I heard a person remark in an interview that its easy at the end of the journey to share some of the important lessons you have learned. It’s harder to be vulnerable in the middle of a journey and offer perspective. She used the phrase “to capture in amber” referring to the lessons learned while still on the journey. “Capturing in amber” is a concept from Michael Crichton’s best-selling book, “Jurassic Park”. In the book, dinosaur DNA was extracted from bugs that had had feasted on dinosaur blood. The lives of these bugs were cut short when they accidentally got stuck in the sap of a tree. While still alive and struggling to get free, the sap enveloped them completely, eventually fossilizing the bug in amber. According to Crichton’s imagination and some scientific knowledge, the bugs captured in amber unlocked the keys for the future.
I could take a high look back on the past three years and chronicle how I lost my weight and have overcome a lifelong battle of obesity. But this would not be a fair assessment. It took over forty years to put on those pounds along with the messages I received and habits I created to sustain that weight. I am still in the struggle, just like the bug who gets caught in the tree sap. And I need to pay attention to the lessons I am learning on the journey. I need to capture these moments and name where I still struggle. This authenticity helps me move forward and overcome. If I ignore the struggle and constantly look ahead to the end of the journey, I might miss some of the lessons I need to learn.
This journey has never been just about numbers, but numbers do play a role. My weight has crept up a few pounds in the last few months and my clothes don’t feel quite as comfortable as they did before. I find myself looking into the mirror and asking my husband if I look fat again. But as the words spill out of my mouth, I remind myself to show grace. I need to find the balance between numbers on the scale, the reality of my current physical health, and my old habits of using food as a comfort. I need to admit to myself and to others the struggles I am facing instead of reverting to the habits of hiding my setbacks. I must remind myself that this is just a slight delay on my journey to better health.
In the past, when I have made long trips and have been in traffic jams or slowdowns, I have been annoyed and frustrated. This frustration didn’t leave when we made our destination. Instead, I always felt like I had to take some time to decompress. Although Terry and I were super excited to be out of the car, I didn’t need to decompress after this trip. I could be fully present as I greeted my son and his wife. The difference was I chose to enjoy the journey with my husband instead of focusing on my destination.
I am applying the lesson I learned on this Rhode Island trip to my journey toward better health. I am choosing not to panic about a few numbers on the scale. I am choosing to be honest with myself, and when I find my self over-indulging, I pause, and make a better decision the next time. I move as much as my body will allow, and rest when my body needs it. And in this struggle, I am learning more about myself, the messages I have accepted, and the truth of God.