Monday, January 28, 2013

Nothing to Write Home About

I knew this day would come-- though I'm surprised it came as fast as it did. I'm just over two months in to this, My Life 2.0.  And it's finally making sense. I feel like I'm in charge of what I eat-- and know enough to put the right kinds of food in my body to give it what it needs. I'm beginng to understand my body and am learning to work healthily within its limits. I'm not having to fight any more. And I've even gotten several "Now you're learning, grasshopper" comments from He-who-trains.  That's not to say that I'm perfect or getting everything 100% right.  But my brain is all "It ain't no thing, stringbean."

Despite a hard second month (being sick, and traveling, and the aforementioned two week rebellion), the scale indicates that my body is on board.  I've lost 16 pounds, and enough inches that, as I said in a text to He-who-trains, "My suit pants look like a tent.  My shoes are falling off.  And there is enough space in my clerical collar that my dog could stick her head out too." It's beginning to show in my face-- though I think a number of my sweet congregants are concerned that I'm still sick-- that that's why my face looks less full than it did.  But the truth is, flu aside, I'm starting to feel good.  I'd say that I've been so unhealthy for so long that it is possible I have never really known what good is.  But I'm starting to. 

One of my favorite verses of scripture has always been "Be still and know that I am God." It's always been a challenge for me-- at least the first part.  But when I learned that the Hebrew literally says, "Cease striving"-- that was beyond my imagining.  It seems that's what people do-- is struggle and writhe and contort and fight and flail. The word is the same one that was used when Jacob tangled with the angel in Genesis. What a hard command-- stop struggling. 

He-who-trains told me once that I shouldn't be having to fight so hard--that I should be able to easily say, "This is my life." He said it shouldn't be a struggle. I told him that was easy for him to say because he had always known this life.  I made his ringtone "Mortal Kombat" because it felt like an apt description of what I was going through. 

But I'm starting to understand.  I may never be able to fully live into Psalm 46:10, but I'm beginning to feel what its like not to have to struggle to make this my life.  The fight is gone-- and now that it is, I can begin to live into the second definition of strive: To make great efforts to achieve something. 

It's great. Only it leaves me with nothing to write home about.  I guess I'll start posting recipes or household cleaning tips or something. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Saying Goodbye

It's been a week. A long week of laying around in a flu induced stupor. I haven't felt like writing or doing much else. I've watched more TV than I care to admit to. I read a whole book. And I even missed preaching this morning, which was no easy thing to convince myself to do. (Fortunately, my church rocks--and they take my health seriously. They convinced me to stay home and get well.)

And somewhere in the blur of days, on the same day as the anniversary of burying a dear friend, a congregation member died and DH's grandfather died. And somewhere in that blur was the 11th anniversary (how has it been that long?) of my best friend's death. Today I learned that a seminary colleage (who is my age) lost her mom to a battle with cancer. It feels like death is curling her fingers around so much.

I'm itching to do life things. My fever broke sometime this afternoon, and I finally feel like a person again. (I'm hoping it is really gone this time. It did this once before and then came back with a vengeance.) I'm sure I shouldn't have done it, but it felt so good to want to move around again, that I did some light house cleaning. It started out as I was trying to find clothes to take on our trip to the funeral. A good chunk of the space was taken up by clothes that are waaaay too big... not even from the last few months, but from a time when I lost 40lbs. I get why people keep skinny clothes-- but who the heck keeps fat clothes around? I could get all pyschological and say that maybe subconsciously I kept them around in case I gained the weight back-- but seriously, I just don't think they were on my radar. Today, though, I needed them gone. I bagged them right up without even a second thought. I needed to get on about the business of being who I am becoming, not looking back to who I once was.

I found a few clothes that would work for the funeral--and happily discovered that all of my suits are on the big side now. But after some ten days of being nowhere near the gym, I admit that my brain was struggling. I haven't been terribly hungry since being sick, but when I was hungry, I wanted terrible things-- I tried to bribe DH to bring me oreos, but fortunately he wouldn't. I wanted ice cream, but we compromised at Frozen Greek Yogurt--which at least had a good deal of protein. And before today, I was really worried about what this trip would be like for us. Let's be honest, a lot of days on the road could easily lead to poor choices. And nevermind that funerals don't typically feature healthy fare.

But, after realizing that I have a huge need to be about the living right now, I don't worry about it. I'm in a place where I need to say goodbye--to some loved ones, to some grief, to an image of who I am that no longer works. Definitely to this flu. To the thought that I am controlled by things.

So we'll take this trip-- and while I wish the timing were different, I think I'm a little glad for the chance to drive and see some new scenery for a bit. To spend some time thinking. To listen to bad music. To be with loved ones. To put some fresh air in my lungs. To embrace life--one piece of the journey at a time.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Practice of Evolution

I got into an interesting conversation earlier about evolution-- sort of.   Not about the origins of people or anything like that, but more along the lines of the way people adapt to circumstances throughout years and generations.  While the mere mention of the "E" word sends some into a tail spin, aren't we all hoping that we're evolving-- at least on the basest level of the definition?  Aren't we all hoping that we are becoming better and stronger and learning from our past mistakes so that we can do something better in the future?

I'm  in an interesting place right now-- a place where I'm purposefully thinking about and, sometimes, recording my evolution.  Part of it is the age and life stage where I am now-- if I thought I became an adult when I turned 21, I was wrong.  I was old enough to do all the "fun" adult things, but my thought processes are just now really shifting into adult thoughts.  I'm evolving in my identity from the pastor of a 40-member church to the Head-of-staff of a much larger, downtown, "First Presbyterian" kind of church.  And I'm evolving in the ways I'm living in my body-- which is what the Pudgy Parson is all about. I'm grateful for those small evolutions.

But I'm also becoming increasingly aware of the places where I'm not evolving-- places where I'm stuck doing the same things I've always been doing.  Since I was a child, I've always had a hard time drinking enough water.  I've been stupidly dehydrated (to the point of doing stupid and dangerous things) more than a few times in my life.  I know that my body needs a certain amount of liquid to do all the things a body does.  And yet I went to train yesterday, stupidly dehydrated.  I mentally thought back, and realized the only time I've been sucking in any water was while I was at the gym.

Of course, that's only one place where I seem not to be getting the evolution memo.  As I've been sidelined from some general, unnamable malaise and barely-functional exhaustion (that admittedly let me watch Matthew McConaughey, but also kept me from going on a mini-trip that I was looking forward to), I've had the chance to read through some old blogs.  Here's one where I was apparently so tired that I considered it a gift to be sick. Here's one where I was too tired to do Thanksgiving. And Here's one that was written when I was apparently so drained by the world that I wrote a whole thing on the holiness of white sheets.  Yeah.  When I look back at the times those were written, I see a pattern.  That I push myself for weeks on end and then crash and burn.  That I literally go until I can't.  That sometimes I let the world set my priorities for me, and then wonder why I'm floundering.

Some things are so easily changed.  But then there are some things, some lessons, that seem to need to be learned over and over.  I didn't set a new years resolution this year ("lose weight" seemed a little blase after the last few months!)  But now, I'm setting an intention for the year, a word that will hang on to for the next 51 weeks:  Evolve.   I don't care much about theories of evolution, but I care about making a practice of evolution.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

On the Seventh Day, You Shall Rest...

Perhaps the commandment I have the hardest time with.  I guess I'd much prefer it if it was a suggestion.

Despite previous failed attempts at sabbath keeping, I believe it's important.  I really try to be away from the church and its business for at least one or (ideally) two days a week. I don't check email. I don't keep my phone too handy.  I do other things-- things that feed my soul.  I believe I'm a better person and pastor when I've taken a day off. I even try to make sure that other people take a day off.  (Uhem...)   And I get the reason behind it-- not only because even the Lord rested when the creating was finished, but because when the Israelites were under Pharoah's watch, they were slaves and had no days off.  The sabbath was intended as a celebration to remind them that they were no longer slaves.  (Uhem, again...)

But of course, this lovely theology of mine does not seem to translate into how I think about exercise.  He-who-trains (lovingly, I'm sure) told me I was like an energetic puppy who didn't know when to quit.  DH has given me the lecture before because I seem to him to always be going and wanting to do more.  And my dad, I think, really hated my "Go Hard or Go Home" shirt that I wore when I was doing Tae Kwon Do-- because it probably describes my life philosophy a little too well.

When He-Who-Trains announced that I was taking a mandatory rest day ("no weights, no cardio-- not even low intensity, nothin'") I tried not to visbly snarl at him. I'm sure I failed because I hate rest days more than I hate low-intensity-pedal-for-what-feels-like-hours days.  I want to go, and do this.  I like the feeling of working hard.  I swear that knowing I'm exercising later keeps me eating well (uh...better) throughout the day.  I feel lazy and lethargic if I don't.

I saw the below words some time ago, and tucked them away, knowing that I would need to be reminded.

For some messed-up reason, our athletic egos still feel that we only get faster as we pedal harder, run quicker and swim stronger. It’s athlete psychology—all of our confidence is built around the times that we actually destroy our bodies. But it’s only the rest afterward that makes our bodies stronger.

Because of this psychological dichotomy, when and how long to rest is the hardest decision to make as an athlete. It takes a level of confidence above even the level necessary to push your body to the limit. You don’t get the endorphin release, the feeling of accomplishment, and the external and internal praise and satisfaction. All you get are feelings of losing your edge, getting out of shape and nervous anticipation.

So the next time you need to rest, whether it be for a mid-season break, post-big race, or just an easy day or two between training blocks, remember that it takes confidence to rest. Remember that it is just insecurity and a lack of endorphin release that makes you feel like you’re getting out of shape. Know that when you decide to rest, you’re making the right call—the better, smarter decision. Feel good and confident about it. You’ve done yourself a favor—you have literally just made yourself a better athlete.-Jesse Thomas, Professional Triathlete & CEO of Picky Bars, originally read on Gibson’s Daily Running Quotes on Facebook

Today is a rest day, and I've stopped snarling-- even when He-who-trains sent me a text from the gym.  I've gotten some work done.  I've had a few minutes to think idle thoughts.  I might even read for fun tonight. Tomorrow I will push hard again, safely, because today I rested.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year! (And my trainer is trying to kill me...)

TGTHAFO (Thank Goodness the Holidays are finally over!) Now that it's a new year-- we're done with all the holidaying for another 11ish months. Don't get me wrong-- I love the holidays.  (I may not take down my trees for another month out of sheer stubbornness.) My body, however, did not love the holidays.  I boldly said on Christmas day (and I quote)  "That tomorrow, after a day of eating what I want and enjoying it, I'll be back to working hard.  That the holidays won't ruin me." Apparently I'm fine with lying to myself, because that's not exactly how it played out. 

What actually happened was that I ate whatever I wanted. It started out small-- just a bite or two here and there.  Then it turned into grazing.  And of course, I didn't know how to track it, so I didn't.  Then it became a "well, it's the holidays, this is what is supposed to happen thing."  And then I was too sluggish to workout well, and then I deserved...and got... a lecture and The Look from He-who-trains. He made a point that I'd never really considered: that living this way is a lot like a marriage.  If you cheat on it, it won't work.  

I had good intentions. But of course, I'm vaguely remembering some expression the road to Hell being paved with those. I bought stuff first for the open house, then for our Christmas guests.  Stuff I never would have bought otherwise.  And who can bear to throw things away-- especially when they are perfectly good?  (Which is, of course, different from good-for-you.)   

Yet, I did.  As soon as everyone left, I threw every bit of it away.  It was The Great Purge.  Then I met He-who-trains at the gym, and he introduced me to my new favorite buddy: Mr. Punching Bag.  He left us alone for a while to get acquainted. An hour and a half later, I left a sweaty mess. I was spent.  But I knew the fight that was raging in me was finished.   Now I could get back to business.

And I have.  When I saw He-who-trains at a New Year's Eve fete, and he asked me what I'd eaten before he got there, I could honestly tell him that I'd behaved.  I ate some ham and some fruit and the tiniest little bit of macaroni and cheese.  I couldn't even tell you what kinds of desserts there were because I never made it that close. I'm actually completely ok with that. But more than that, I could look him in the eye and tell him that I'm doing this, that I mean it, and that I'm back to being a rockstar. 

In the course of the last two weeks, I made the mistake of telling  He-who-trains that I like my workouts to be really challenging. (And I do-- I get ill when I have a lame-o workout.) So today, he gave me exactly what I asked for.  I really thought to myself-- at least during the first round-- "He's trying to kill me.  He's actually trying to kill me." 

Of course he is.  Just not in the way I thought.  I've used the illustration a lot as a pastor, but it seems to fit now.  Rebirth only happens after a death. If something is healthy, it can grow.  But sometimes the new can only come after the old has been allowed to die off.  I realized today that there's not room for my old habits and thoughts, because they were choking out the new growth that was just beginning to show.  

At the end of the workout, I was spent.  And grinning from ear to ear. Because I felt good and alive and focused and passionate and strong. And because there's been a thanatopsis (good death) of some things that needed to go. 

To that, and to a year of doing the things I always believed impossible, I raise my glass.  Here's to 2013: the year of the pudgeless parson!