Busy, busy, busy. It's our religion almost. We kneel at the altar of busyness. We pray to the calendar gods.
We sing the songs of schedule. We sit in the anxiety of too much to do and too little time to do it.
Because of this reality, there are so many things that get in the way of taking care of ourselves – work, spouse, family, house/home, TV watching, paying bills, social media, laziness, busyness, paperwork, denial, etc. With all of this to do -- we too often put our own needs in last place. We take care of others, we take care of our loved ones, we take care of our homes, we take care of our work, and we take care of our financial obligations – but we leave ourselves and our personal needs out of the equation.
It’s a problem for many in our culture today. We have placed the needs of everyone and everything else above our own.
It happens to people in every profession and life circumstance. It happens in the lives of clergy and religious leaders, a group I am part of and work with, way too often.
And it especially happens in the lives of women. We are expected by outside forces to always put others before ourselves. It affects us emotionally, spiritually, and physically.
I allowed it to happen to myself. Even though I teach about self-care – especially for women and clergy – I allowed my own life to spiral into one that did not focus on my own health, body, spirit, and emotions.
For decades I have dealt with a weight issue. I started putting on weight after high school. I had seriously injured my knee and my ability to be more active dried up. I went to college and put on the freshman 15 like almost everyone else.
Then I got into a bad cycle. My knee hurt so I did not exercise. I did not exercise so I put on weight. Putting on weight had an adverse effect on my knees. Because of the pain and inactivity I was in a negative spiral that I felt helpless to control or to change.
When I turned 50 I came to realize that I was over 100 pounds overweight, had two bad knees, was on several prescription meds, and was living a very inactive lifestyle. However, I was – by all accounts – a happy and highly productive person. I had a great job, fabulous friends, and an amazing family. If anyone asked if I was happy – my answer was emphatic, “Of course, I am. I have everything I need to give me joy.”
But deep down I now know that I was suffering. I got looks from others insinuating that I must be “fat because I’m lazy.” I endured the glances when I entered the aisle of a plane for travel that told me what they were thinking, “I hope she’s not sitting beside me.” And I heard the soft whispers when I went into stores that did not accommodate my size when I was purchasing a gift for someone else.
It was hard – but I pretended it wasn’t happening. I refused to hear the voices of others and the ones in my head telling me that this was not a good way to live. I ignored the cry of my body to be honorable to it. And I continued to claim that I was happy. I guess that I was convinced that I was "happy enough" and that was all I deserved.
Then I had an experience that brought me to my knees. I was too big to ride an amusement park ride with my son and I sat there weeping while he rode it without me. It was too much. I could not bear to miss another moment with my family due to my inactivity, weight, and lack of mobility. I deserved better.
So I asked for help. I went to my doctor, got a nutritionist, and hired a personal trainer. I created a team of encouragers, supporters, experts, and guides for the journey. And I changed my life. Over the past year I have lost 100+ pounds, I have changed how and what I eat, and I have embraced the reality that I deserve a fuller life. I have begun exercising regularly and I have done everything I can to turn my life around. I have utilized every avenue available for me to use to change my life.
And in the process I found me again.
I found the me that has energy to live life to the fullest. I found the me that wakes up excited about the day. I found the me that honors the gift of life God has blessed me with as a healthier, happier person. I found the me that could do things again and not be limited by my knees or my weight.
I had ignored the symptoms and the signs. I did not see it. But as I lost weight and began to live more fully – I discovered that part of me had actually gone missing as I put on the weight.
Miraculously and thankfully, I have found me again.
I find that my connection to my work is deeper and more fulfilling. I find that I am closer to my family and able to do more things with them. I find that I am more confident than ever before. I find that my faith is deeper as I live into a life that honors more faithfully who God calls me to be. And I have found a level of joy that makes me feel so blessed and happy.
So why am I telling you this? I'm not telling you this to make anyone feel badly about their own journey with weight or self-care or anything else. I’m not telling you this to judge your life or say that you need to do what I have done. I’m not telling you to in any way make you feel less than a precious child of God that you are.
I'm telling you this because it has been an amazing journey and I feel compelled to share it. I’m telling you this because I refuse to get into this place of denial again. I’m telling you because I want you to live into your best self – whatever that means for you. And I’m telling you this because I care about your journey as well.
My journey to fully find me and be all that God intends for me continues. But right now I can truly and absolutely say, with no reservations or denial, that I am really happy. And I can say that I am living a life that gives me abundant joy.
I celebrate with you if you have found this and are living a life of happiness and joy where you are right now.
And for those of you still struggling to find you or to find that happiness and joy - I pray for you to find it for today and always.