I’m on this “health journey.” I’m 44 lbs down over the past four months, but some days, like today, it takes everything I have to get up off the couch and go for a jog. Given that I spent over 30 years of my life without every seriously exercising, I still find I’m surprised at myself for getting up off the couch and doing it. It was warm/muggy this afternoon, so I waited for sunset to run. I decided I would grab my flashlight so as to not get run down in our dark neighborhood and I couldn’t find it… anywhere. I was thinking to myself, “you always use your flashlight to run, where is it.” That got me thinking about why I couldn’t find my flashlight – because I haven’t run at night in a few months… I used to run at night. Why?
Because I’ve been a big ol sack of shame, that’s why. I didn’t want to go to a gym where all the fit people would see me, and I didn’t want my neighbors to see me in daylight – would they automatically assume that my doctor told me I had to? Would they immediately assume I’d never be successful? Would they crack a joke to their spouse about that “big guy” trying to lose weight? Would they see me six months from now and automatically assume I had given up?
Shame is paralyzing. It alienates you, it torments you, it mocks you. It’s yelling so loud in your head that it’s deafening – louder than the encouragement, louder than any smidgen of hope you may have, and most importantly, louder than the truth. What’s amazing to me is that shame has this amazing ability to be hidden just under the surface – enough so you can’t name it and beat it. Instead, you act like you’ve chosen that part of yourself and it’s just “who you are.”
A few months ago, Chels and I were in the car on our way to church and we were fighting. We were arguing about the fact that I didn’t bring tennis shoes and shorts to wear after church. Seems silly, right? But the truth was, we weren’t arguing about my choice in clothes at all. We were arguing about the fact that I was fat and ashamed of myself and the best way for me to deal with that shame was to pretend that I didn’t want to wear shorts and play ball. I would argue that most fat folks will tell you they don’t want to swim, or be outside, or play on your team, or whatever – because they’re embarrassed to do those things.
I’ve been embarrassed at how uncomfortable I’ve been on flights and how uncomfortable I’ve made the folks sitting next to me. I’ve been ashamed of how much I sweat or how hard it is to catch my breath. I’m ashamed to be the guy in the pool wearing a t-shirt. I’m ashamed of getting that 2nd or 3rd plate. Despite all of that, I’ve just lived up to my own expectations and done it again – because I’m doomed to live life that way. I was scared out of my mind to go to a gym – to be that uncomfortable – so I didn’t. That day in the car, I finally said all of this. Chest-heaving, all-out weeping, I had had enough – I needed to admit I had looked at personal trainer reviews and gym rates for two years and just couldn’t bring myself to face those fears. I had to admit that I knew that it’s hard to be physically attracted to someone who’s almost double the weight they should be. I had to admit that I didn’t believe it could ever be different. Truthfully, life doesn’t have very many “breakthrough” moments of clarity, but that conversation was. I walked away from that conversation after having admitted my shame and fears, know that it was time to face them head on – with a wife cheering me on every step of the way.
I don’t write this because I’ve figured it out, on the contrary, I write because it helps me put words to the jumbled mass of thoughts in my head. I’m not writing this so you tell me how great it is that I’m losing weight and not to “give up.” I write this because I hope that there’s one other person out there who knows shame like what I’ve written above will find the courage to tell someone they are ashamed, and then to do something – small, but significant – to face their shame – to believe that they too can make progress. Maybe you’ll beat shame altogether… or maybe you’ll just beat it down a little… but that paralyzing feeling you have, it starts to lose power for every day that you do that next thing to continue your journey…
Because now, I rarely run in the dark.
Peace be with you