Finding and settling on a name for this space (the blog, Life Begins in the Middle) mirrored what it often feels like to be in this space (mid-life).
When I first heard the title (thanks to my friend D’s fabulous suggestion) it spoke to me. Immediately I felt like this title and I were old friends and it adequately represented what I want this space to be—a journal about and proof of the fact that middle age can be the beginning of getting the life one wants, particularly if one has a lot of unfulfilled aspirations.
But then I wondered, does this title negate all of the good that has taken place in my life up to this point? Does it indicate ingratitude for the wealth of positives that have taken place thus far? How do I reconcile my gratitude for what has been while still yearning for something different, something better?
Sometimes I feel absolutely paralyzed by similar feelings when I’m thinking about my life. I think about my age and the things that I want in my life and on some level I wonder if wanting something different or something more shows a lack of gratitude for what has been. Does grieving the lack of a husband and family negate the amazing career that bloomed in its place? I wonder if wanting to change so much about my life beginning now marginalizes my accomplishments in the first 48 years of my life.
I hope that anyone reading this will realize that I have a wonderful life. It may not be quite what I want it to be, particularly in some areas, but there have been a lot of really good things. However, there are some holes that I have allowed to develop in spite of or instead of these other really good things that has left an ache in my heart and a desire to do more and be better than I am now.
I have to admit that I had a bit of a panic attack tonight thinking along these lines. It happens occasionally. I’ll be thinking about life and my plans for life and then have a sudden awareness and realization that I’m tired, that I’m no longer 28, and that my life is nothing like what I thought it would be when I dreamed about it. Realization that our time on earth is finite and with every passing day there is less time to accomplish all I want scares me. The thought that some of the desires of my heart are not physically possible anymore leaves me sad and wondering about the choices I have made and the trade-offs that I negotiated with my actions—whether I realized that Is what I was doing or not. And then I feel the fear…the fear that I won’t be able to turn things around—even in the areas where change is still possible–the fear that I’ve let things slide for too long and then before long that fear rolls into feeling guilty about wanting more and different than what is.
I don’t think it is wrong to want more and different. I don’t believe that wanting different stems from or shows a lack of gratitude for what is. I think that figuring out what our divinely endowed gifts and talents are—even if it takes us away from what we have conditioned ourselves to do an be for decades—can be anything but good. Becoming the best version of ourselves shows gratitude for what we have been given. Being brave enough to step into our dreams, taking with us the experiences—all of the experiences that made us who we are today—shows a great deal of gratitude for what has been.
I don’t know for sure where things go from here. I do know that I won’t be able to move forward and accomplish what I want if I keep allowing these feelings of doubt and guilt flood my mind and narrow my path. I choose to step into the future with faith.
Hourly reminders tap me on the shoulder and point out that I’m not the fit and fabulous forty-something that I want to be. Whether it is my aching back or the beads of sweat that form on my brow every time I’m seated in a restaurant for fear that my belly won’t quite fit in the booth, I am reminded daily that I am a failure at fitness. I don’t like it, yet somehow I’ve come to accept this as just how things are. At what point did I decide that perpetual embarrassment was where I wanted to live? When did that happen? When did I decide that it was ok to be uncomfortable 24/7? If you have spent any time at all on this side of an acceptable BMI you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes it is uncomfortable and sometimes it is down-right painful. And yet….I have let it become my reality….for years on end.
I’ve often heard that once a person hits forty the ease with which they maintain their health and physical fitness changes and becomes more difficult. I thought that was a myth—but I’m here to tell you that there is some truth to that. Things seem so much more difficult now than they did 10 years ago.
But, hey, forty is the new twenty, right? That means almost fifty must be the new not-quite-thirty. And I say—it’s never too late to be who you want to be. The past 30 years have been littered with moments of fitness awesome sauce amongst the stress, long work hours, depression, and self-doubt that built this current aching body and tired mind.
It’s time to turn things around. Life begins in the middle and I’m determined that the second half of this life will be fit, healthy and fabulous!
Welcome to Life Begins in the Middle! I’m migrating my other blog, Finding My Inner Athlete, over here, so all posts prior to today are from that and previous blogs. Never fear! I’m still looking for that inner athlete, but I’m expanding my areas of improvement to include lots of other things.
Why Life Begins in the Middle? Several years ago, my Dad made an off-handed comment about my being “middle-aged.” I was incensed! I was outraged! How could he possibly think I was “middle-aged?” So I asked him, “Why on earth would you call me middle-aged?” His reply was dry and very matter-of-fact, “Well, honey, how long do you think you will live?”
While he was probably right, I left the conversation still in denial. I’m not middle-aged. I’m barely aged at all. However, time has moved along and lots of things have happened. I now realize that he is right—or rather he was right and I’m much further advanced in my middle-agedness than I want to admit.
So, what does one do when they finally kick denial out and accept the fact that they are middle-aged? I don’t know about them, but I did an inventory of my life and I have to say, I’m not particularly happy with the outcome:
How I thought it would be:
How it is:
|Married, Mother of at least three, Grandmother amazing||Single, never married, no kids, no grandparent opportunities, haven’t even had a date in a bazillion years (ok, that’s an exaggeration, but decades would be pretty close to on-point)|
|Debt free, kickin’ retirement account and the ability to retire when I hit my 30-year anniversary at work||Up to my eyeballs in debt, not quite where I need to be on the retirement savings scale, looking at another 15-years of working|
|Fit, athletic, healthy—running marathons, doing triathlons, hiking like a mountain goat—you get the picture||Fat, sick, and so tired I could just cry 24/7.|
|Totally skilled in some awesome hobbies, like photography, cooking, wood working, etc.||Half-assed skilled in all of these, but master of none|
Now that the inventory is done, I have a couple of choices: stick my head back in the sand, or turn things around. I’m choosing to turn things around. It’s never too late to be who you want to be. I believe that!
Yesterday was not my best day. Not by a long shot.
My habit on days like yesterday has been to try to refocus my thoughts to the positive. I will often make a post on Facebook that starts with “Good things about today….” and then write 5-10 things about my day that were good in order to keep me out of the self-pity quicksand.
It usually works.
Yesterday I was struggling.
It feels like I’ve been riding the same merry-g0-round of discontent with my life for more than a decade now–even though there have been multiple, semi-successful attempts to exit this particular ride. Yesterday I made some mistakes at work. I was well aware that I’m back at my highest recorded weight (despite my many attempts to be otherwise). I felt tired, overwhelmed and sad.
I wanted to write a “Good things about today” post, but I just didn’t have it in me.
And then this happened…
You might wonder what a picture of a tree swing has to do with anything.
Well….it came along with this kind note in a facebook message from one of my high school/neighborhood friends from back in the day:
“I was thinking about you today. I pass by this bench every time I run and today was the first day I didn’t want to stop and just sit down on it. That made me think of how you are always trying to improve yourself. You are constantly trying and that is so inspiring to me! I hope this doesn’t offend, I am not trying to – I really appreciate you! Thank you for being you, love ya!”
It was just what I needed to hear and arrived just when I needed to hear it!
It was my “Good Things About Today” yesterday and it means more to me than I can express.
Knowing that someone notices that I keep trying, makes me want to try harder–to not give up. Having that message arrive at the very moment that I decided I didn’t have it in me to think positively about my day reassured me that God knows me, loves me, and teams up with others to make sure I’m taken care of.
Thank you friend for your good example, for reaching out to me when you thought about me, and for helping turn a less-than-stellar day into a terrific day. I hope I can follow your example.
“Never say anything about yourself you do not want to come true.” ~ Brian Tracy
One of the themes, if you want to call it a theme, that seems to be reoccurring as I’ve been searching for ways to improve my life over the past few years has been the importance of the things that we say to ourselves. In particular, the things that we say after the words “I am” stick to us like glue. It doesn’t take long until we believe them.
A few years back I went to a holistic health conference. One of the sessions I went to was called “I am” and was taught by the fabulous Kristen Bowen of Living the Good Life Naturally. In the session we talked about personal declarations and we practiced being able to say things out loud that were positive affirmations of who we are and what we want for our lives. I remember going through that exercise and following Kristen’s instructions to think back to the person we wanted to be when we were children and to write those characteristics on a piece of paper. Imagining myself at 8 or 10 years of age and writing my desired traits down from that perspective was easy.
The next thing we were asked to do was hard. Our next challenge was to convert those characteristics into statements that started with the phrase, “I am.” So, if as a child you wanted to be brave and conquer the world, your statement might read, “I am brave!” or “I am courageous!”
We were then asked to put our right hand over our heart to help us anchor those statements as we said them out loud. That was difficult. It wasn’t easy to put my hand over my heart and speak words that I didn’t necessarily believe to be true about current-day me. Especially because I wanted to believe them so much. It was clear that I wasn’t the only one in the room with that reaction. One of the gals got up in front of the group to demonstrate how it was to be done. She was struggling in much the same way. Kristen then said that if she couldn’t authentically connect with the statement to include the word “capable”. I am “capable” of being fearless.” I am “capable” of having great courage.
Wow! It was so moving to me that adding that one modifier could make a statement that seemed like such a bald faced lie believable. That one additional word allowed me to access belief in myself and tie those desired characteristics to the statements I wanted to believe about myself. It was a small miracle.
I was at a personal development seminar recently. One of the keynote speakers was Sagi Kalev of Body Beast and Hammer & Chisel fame. He said something that stood out to me. He said, “Whatever you say after the words, ‘I am’ will find you.” And I was instantly reminded of the lesson I described above that I initially learned from my friend Kristen.
It has taken me many years to really believe that what I say to myself and about myself has a real and lasting impact on who I become. To recognize that saying, “I suck!” probably isn’t the best way to be all that I can be. It seems silly to think I need to remind myself daily of my good qualities but after a lot of years of stating all of my faults and less attractive qualities out loud to myself as though they are the absolute truth, I need a frequent and consistent reminder of the important truths and the things I desire for my life.
Back in November I went to a workshop put on by 3 Key Elements called Master Your Influence. This very theme was reinforced at that seminar. There we learned the importance of having good, positive body language to back up what you say and we got direction on how to build our own affirmations and how to make them meaningful. I’ve been working on getting meaningful affirmations in place and practicing the appropriate body language to back it up.
Even though it has taken quite a while and is definitely still a work in progress, I am happy to report that they are right. What we say about ourselves, and especially what we say after the words “I am.” Whether we want to admit it or not, we believe what we say, especially when we say it about ourselves.
I challenge each of you to watch your language for just one day and catch any times that you find yourself saying something negative about yourself. Then, formulate a strategy for replacing those negative pieces of self-talk with positive and purposeful affirmations (and let me know how you progress). You are awesome and you are worthy of living the life you dream.
I’ve often wondered why it is that I struggle with my weight. That may seem like a strange thing for me to wonder about. My struggle with weight is not new. One would think that I have that all figured out. I obviously don’t or I wouldn’t still struggle with it.
I was watching The Biggest Loser a few weeks ago when I had a thought related to this that has had me thinking since. In the episode I’m referencing, all of the contestants were sitting around having a moment with Jen (whom I love, by the way—amazing trainer).
The following conversation ensued:
Colby: “…I’m a good person. I feel like I can contribute to the world, but why hasn’t that next step come? Now, all of sudden, I’m here on the biggest Loser and it makes you wonder if there’s bigger things to come.”
Jen: “I think we all get misty when you think about that, because what you are talking about is–what is my life’s purpose, where am I going–and perhaps the weight gain has come because you haven’t felt connected to what you are supposed to be doing with your life.”
AAAAAAHAAAAA! Did you hear those angels sing? I did. Maybe, the weight gain has come because you haven’t felt connected to what you are supposed to be doing with your life. Seriously! This statement hit me like a ton of bricks—but not in the “take my breath away” kind of realization, but the “Yes. That’s it, Teresa. She is talking to you.” It was like remembering something that I have always known (and that has been happening a lot for me lately in a lot of areas of my life).
What do I do with that information? How do I connect with my life’s purpose? How do I figure out what how to identify that? Determine how far away from it and in what areas I need adjusting in order to connect? I don’t think I’m completely disconnected with my life’s purpose, but I do think I’ve had a hard time accepting what that is, allowing myself to believe that it is possible, and embracing the possibility with everything that goes along with it. Mainly, how do I face my fears and sustain that belief in myself that will be required for me to really connect with my purpose?
I’ve been reading “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek. In the portion that I listened to today, he said, “People don’t buy your what, they buy your why.” In this case—the case of me having such a struggle losing weight—I believe I’m the “people” he is talking about in that statement as well as the “your.” I don’t buy my what anymore and I’m not at all connected with my why in a way that is meaningful. I think one of the reasons that I’ve been struggling—struggling with things that have worked in the past, struggling with keeping the weight off, struggling with my confidence—is because I haven’t really ever connected with my why. I’ve tried. I’ve heard over and over again how important the why is. Yet, every time I try to verbalize my why, it doesn’t feel sincere. Why is that? Is it because the why I verbalize isn’t authentic? Is it because the why I verbalize is something that I feel completely unworthy of having or embarrassed about wanting? Is it because I’m unwilling to be completely vulnerable, even with myself, and am I’m not verbalizing a complete and authentic why?
I’m contemplating all of these things and I’m committed to fleshing out my WHY in the very near future and being brave enough to share it publicly and own my issues.
Consider that to be a promise or a warning.
Fleeting moments of inspiration….I have them a lot. Thoughts that randomly light in my mind and heart like a butterfly flits from flower to flower, they make an impact and then move on.
I need to make a conscious effort to write them down or record them in some way so that I can learn and retain as much as I can. A few weeks ago I clicked on a random thing I saw in my facebook feed that talked about a man who had written his own obituary. Oftentimes when someone writes there own obituary it is entertaining, so I thought I would check it out.
This one, however, held one of those fleeting moments of inspiration. You can find the Obituary of James Motsumori here. He sounds like the kind of man I would have liked to have known. He had an interesting life. The thing that stuck out to me was in the paragraph talking about him learning Japanese on his mission. This statement moved me: “But it was there that I learned that I could do hard things and that obedience brings blessings and strict obedience brings miracles.”
I have always known that I could do hard things. Lately, however, I’ve felt less than confident in my ability to create change with my own physical body. I have a hard time visualizing what that would look like for me. I have vivid memories of what the workouts were like the last time I lost a lot of weight and how it got a lot easier but I keep getting stuck on the how hard it is part and I feel like I’m really floundering with both the exercise and the food goals I have set. There are days when I wonder why I’m struggling so much.
It occurred to me as I read this obituary that I haven’t been “obedient” to those physical laws that I believe govern the health of my physical body. I also haven’t been obedient to my interpretation of the Word of Wisdom.* I need to be more obedient to those laws that I believe govern my health. I can’t do otherwise and expect to blessed with a different outcome than what I am getting currently.
Obedience allows God’s blessings to flow without constraint. He will bless His obedient Children with freedom from bondage and misery. And He will bless them with more light. ~Russell M. Nelson
It is clear to me that I need blessings in this endeavor. My attempts to do it on my own are failing miserably. To be frank, I need a miracle. As I’ve been studying obedience this week and looking for ways in which I can apply it to my health endeavors, I am convinced that what was stated in this obituary is true. Obedience to these laws is my answer and strict obedience is what will be required of me to get the miracle I desire. Now comes the hard part of putting this into play. With God’s help, I know it can be done. Here are some quotes that I will be taking with me to remind me of my resolve and my belief that God will help me as I strive to do what I need to do:
“As we follow [the Savior], He blesses us with gifts, talents and the strength to do His will, allowing us to go beyond our comfort zones and do things we’ve never before thought possible.” ~Robert D. Hales
The knowledge which we seek, the answers for which we yearn, and the strength which we desire today to meet the challenges of a complex and changing world can be ours when we willingly obey the Lord’s commandments.” ~Thomas S. Monson
I recently reconnected with a friend from grade school. It was fun to talk about the old days and reminisce. Inevitably, we got around to exchanging facts on where we are in our lives now—marriages, children, etc. As many of you may know, my life in these areas hasn’t been what my grade school self dreamed it would be. I’ve noticed as I’ve reconnected with other friends over the past few years that this is an area where I feel particularly vulnerable. While it is not my intent, I often come across as defensive or sometimes even whiney and filled with self pity when I talk about my lack of these things that I think should be so fundamental to my life.
And, let’s be honest, there were a lot of years (a lot) where I wasn’t just coming across as defensive—I was very defensive, bitter, angry, and confused at my lack of ability to make changes in my life that would help me attain these goals.
This time, as I felt the sadness and shame about not accomplishing in this area of my life well up in me, I wanted so badly to answer in a way that was without defensiveness or self pity and loathing. I have learned a lot about myself and others through the experiences I have had. I have a great life despite my presumed lack. I wanted to be able to express this appropriately. I did better. But my response was more curt that I would have liked and did not appropriately reflect the gratitude that I have for all of the good things I do have. As I recall it was something like, “Never married. No children. Big regrets.”
My friend was kind and generous in his response (if you ever read this, thank you). I’m glad to have had the conversation because I’ve been thinking a lot the past several days about how I really feel about where I am in life, what I regret, and how I feel about the role we let regret play in our lives.
Regret has been defined as sorrow or remorse for an act, fault or disappointment, or to think of something with a sense of loss. Who doesn’t have that? Even if everything goes absolutely according to plan, there are things we don’t accomplish or can’t experience, simply because our life experience can’t allow us to have, accomplish and experience everything simultaneously.
Several years ago, I was meeting with one of my ecclesiastical leaders discussing very similar issues. I came across my journal entry from that day and was reminded of our discussion and how I left that meeting with an understanding that sometimes the things we experience in our lives that we view as negative—that we regret—are not punishments. Sometimes we are allowed to experience things in our lives because that is the only way that we can learn the things that we need to know in order to become the person that God would have us be. We can learn compassion for others with similar struggles. We can learn to rely more on the Lord and to think more about whether our life pleases Him than worldly standards we measure ourselves against. And, yes, we can use the regret we have for things we have done or not accomplished as a compelling motivator for change and growth in our lives.
As I read through that journal entry, it was reconfirmed to me that my Heavenly Father loves me and that he want for me what I want for me. But, even more, he wants for me what is best for me.
So, you may be asking yourself, “What does this have to do with Teresa’s desire to ‘Find her Inner Athlete’?” What does it have to do with her desire to eat right and exercise? Well, it has now been one year since I went to True North on a quest to improve my health. For the past few weeks, I’ve been reviewing what I did while I was undergoing that 2-week water-only fast. I’ve been thinking about how well I have (or haven’t) stuck to the way of eating that I was sure would become my new norm. I’ve been thinking about where I would be with my weight loss and my ‘inner athlete’ if I had been able to keep things going at home like I had planned. I’ve had momentary thoughts of what I could have done with the money I invested in that experience if I wasn’t going to use what I learned there. I have regrets. When I think about where my health, and most especially my weight, could be right now if I had fully embraced what I learned at True North, I feel sadness, and shame, and regret.
I also feel gratitude. I learned a lot. Even in this ensuing year of stumbling and recommitting, and stumbling again—I have learned so much! I have learned compassion—specifically compassion for myself. I have learned that I am strong and I need to give myself credit for the good things that I do. I have learned understanding. I’m learning what I really believe about what a healthy diet is. I’m figuring out how to overcome years of bad habits. I’m learning that I can’t change everything over night. I’m learning that I can change. I can do better. It’s ok not to be perfect, as long as I’m making progress.
I’m starting out a new year in a few weeks with more tools than I had a year ago. Tools that will serve me well. Tools that I wouldn’t have had without this struggle. And, I know I will succeed. I know that I have learned things through this struggle that I needed to learn in order to be who I need to be. Things that would have been difficult to learn in another circumstance.
As luck would have it, I came across this clip from Brene Brown that I found interesting and that I think mirrors my feelings about regret fairly well.
Regret is a fair but tough teacher.
I’m am a reluctant but grateful student.
There are so many things swirling around in my mind that I want to write about that it is hard to know where to start.
I think I will start with being uncomfortable. No one wants to be uncomfortable. In fact, many of us go out of our way to make things as comfortable as possible. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we are going for comfortable–just closer to the standard of comfortable than not.
As a large person comfort is often at the forefront of my mind. Fortunately (or oft times unfortunately) it is usually second in line to my enthusiasm for participation in just about everything. I make plans ALL OF THE TIME–like full-on committed, paid for, how the hell do I get out of it now, plans–and then think, “Ugh! What was I thinking? I don’t know what that venue will be like. Will I fit in those seats? If I do, will it be a tight fit that will make it uncomfortable for those seated next to me? Will I have to walk farther than my out-of-shape body has capacity for? Will I be embarrassed?”
You get the picture. The problem (or the perk, depending on how I look at it) is that I am in denial. I know I’m fat. I’ve been a big gal for the better part of two decades. I beat myself up with it daily. And yet, it still doesn’t cross my mind in those moments of decision that I might have issues that would make a particular decision less than practical, less than the best possible choice. Somewhere inside of me, I identify more with the fit, athletic, kick-butt girl of decades gone by. In my gut. At my core. It doesn’t occur to me that I’m not that person I see so clearly in my mind until it puts me in a position of being really uncomfortable. (And that is why I know this is not a permanent state of being.)
I went to a conference last week. It was a three-day event in a hotel-type ballroom with a thousand other people where we learned about body language. Sitting in tight quarters with forced interaction with other people can be a bit uncomfortable. In this conference we had several opportunities a day to interact with strangers in ways that were well outside of the normal person’s comfort zone. My take-away from this experience is that being uncomfortable can often be a good thing. It can be that catalyst that makes us take a look at ourselves, our situation, or those things that we are trying to accomplish in a way that we wouldn’t have if we were comfortable 100% of the time.
One of the activities that really stood out to me involved mapping another person’s eye movement while they told a story for three minutes. They, in turn, would map my eye movement while I told a story for three minutes. As the facilitator outlined the activity it became clear to me that I would be teamed up with not one, but two different people for this activity. Two friends I had not yet met. While the directions were being given I was scanning my wealth of stories (because we all know I can tell a good yarn) only to find out at the last minute that our stories would all begin the same. “Hi! (Introduce yourself). I’m awesome because…..” for three minutes. TALK ABOUT UNCOMFORTABLE. I can tell you a story or two for all the live-long day, but talk to you about why I, Teresa Passey, am awesome (I am, by the way) was well outside of the comfort zone for me.
But it was in those six minutes, with a lot of stammering, stuttering, looking up to the left, up to the center, up to the right, and occasionally down to the right, that I realized something. Actually saying things about yourself that you know to be true–at your core–cements them. It was rough. I had to look hard. But going through the uncomfortable activity of pulling those statements out of my gut and saying them aloud to another person made them more believable to me. The second time wasn’t as hard as the first. I was less worried about the other person’s opinion of whether or not they thought what I said was really awesome the second time around. I couldn’t exaggerate. I mean, I guess I could have, but because I was stating it as truth and not “telling a story” I had to say things that I really believed. And then I realized that I really did believe them.
So, the purpose of the post? The next time you have to face something uncomfortable–do it! Look for ways to make the uncomfortable comfortable. I mean, be safe, but push the limits, even just a little bit. I know the next time I’m asked to explain to someone why I’m awesome, it will still be uncomfortable, but it will be more comfortable than it was last week. Because I’ve already done it. Because I know I can tell my truth and have it be just that, mine. And I know that the more I do that uncomfortable thing, whatever it is, the more comfortable I become.