Sometimes, good things really do happen. I learned that on Sunday when I crossed under the rainbow of balloons at the finish line of the Missoula Half Marathon. When I heard my name booming over the P.A. system, I jumped up and down in place, like a little girl who just heard she’s going to Disneyland. I had dreamed of passing under those balloons, but I was never fully confident that I could do it. Turns out, dreams really do come true (Queue inspirational music here.)
Back in January, when I first entertained the idea of walking a half marathon, my dream came laced with doubts. I had several obstacles that I couldn’t clear on my own. The first was money: I needed about $180 for good shoes and race registration. The second was time: how could I carve out the hours of walking needed to train for reaching 13.1 miles? The third was discipline: I’d started a lot of things. Would this dream end halfway, like all those other endeavors?
I couldn’t answer these questions on my own, but I didn’t have to. Once I shared my dream with others, I was no longer alone. Turns out, people love to dream right along with me! Some generous relatives supplied new shoes and registration money. They also paid for me to attend an organized training group on Saturday mornings. I didn’t have to rely on my steam alone. I had a program ready-made to ramp me up to 13.1 miles.
For the last three months, I awoke each Saturday morning at 7 am (ouch!) to lace up my shoes, grab a banana, pour some coffee in my to-go cup, and breeze out the door. Our training group started with a crowd of more than 50 people – men and women of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Some intended to walk the full marathon, but most were just like me, dreaming of crossing that finish line in the half. Unfortunately, most of them never got to see their dream come true. For whatever reason — lack of time, emerging pangs, or surprise conflicts – fewer and fewer folks showed up each Saturday.
I could have been one of the fallen. As I increased my distance, I discovered a problem with my feet. After walking for an hour, intense, burning pain would sear the space between my toes. Turns out, I have Metatarsalgia. No easy fix. No quick cure. So I kept walking – sometimes with my toes curled to ease the pain – and reminded myself that it’s only temporary. As soon as I sat down, it would go away. I logged mile after mile learning to endure discomfort for a greater goal.
By the time our training hit the longest walk of 12 miles, our group had whittled down to 15 dedicated souls. I wasn’t among them. I got sick. Flattened by the flu, I couldn’t workout – much less walk a mile – for almost two weeks. Here I was again: facing a hurdle I couldn’t clear. Would I lose all the endurance I had gained each Saturday? The farthest I’d walked was 11 miles, and it hurt! What if I couldn’t make it to 13.1?
Plus, my training partner – a wonderful woman named Judy, who plodded the pavement with me mile after mile – couldn’t race. All those miles had inflamed her underlying arthritis. The doctor warned her, “If you race, you could hobble yourself.” She was so disappointed, as was I. On race day, I feared having to walk alone, which is usually just fine, but four hours of alone? That’s just plain boring.
I relate all this to share an important lesson I learned: I don’t have to be all put together to be part of the miracle, the flow, the magic of life. How do I know this? Well, here’s what happened on race day…
My feet felt great! No searing pain; no curled toes. As it happened, getting sick and not walking so much gave my feet time to heal. On race day, the only pain I had was missing Judy. Even that was o.k., however; because I paired up with a friend from my gym, Sandy. She’s a zany woman who loves to crack jokes out loud like, “If you hear me say ‘I see my mother,’ there’s just one thing you have to remember: my mother’s been dead for 15 years!” Her frivolity gave me permission to just let loose and have fun. The whole 13.1 miles, we stopped to joke with roadside spectators (“Your hands hurt from clapping? Come on people! No pain, no gain!”); we danced to random tunes blaring from boom boxes (“I like to move, move it!”); we ran through sprinklers with our hands in the air like little kids (“Wheeee!”). When I crossed the finish line, I basked in more than the pride of completing a half marathon. I relished the fact that I could trust life to orchestrate the best for me, even when I can’t deliver it myself.
I had just experienced The Gap.
The Gap is my answer to last week’s question: How do I practice total acceptance and still want more from life? This brings me to Part 3 in this series, Keeping It Off. If you’re new to this blog, take some time to read Part 1 and Part 2. To catch up…after losing 50 pounds, I found myself more worried than confident about maintaining my weight loss. What if I couldn’t keep it off? What if I didn’t have enough discipline? I shared how the only way to trump those fears was to stay present; to live in The Now. I broke down all the reasons why I tend to stray from The Now and resolved to anchor to the most powerful force I know: the total acceptance of Unconditional Love. But, here’s the rub: how do I practice total acceptance and still want more from life? How do I celebrate losing 50 pounds and still want to lose 50 more? How do I accept my feet screaming in pain at mile eight and still believe I can reach mile 13.1?
Acceptance and hope seem like they contradict each other. Acceptance means agreeing to what is. Hope means wanting more than what is. How can the two live side-by-side? The answer: The Gap.
The Gap is where mystery lives. The Gap is that magic place — outside of my reason and control — where miracles happen. The Gap is where I am not enough, but I don’t have to be, because something more, something bigger, comes alongside to see me through. Resting in that truth brings sanctuary for my soul. I don’t have to haul the heavy burden of living; I can be a kid again.
The Gap is that space between what I can do and what needs to be done. It can show up wherever I need it. It’s powerful and effective, because The Gap is not hollow. When I rest in The Gap, I’m not floating in a void or lost in limbo. I am in Love. Love lives in The Gap, and here’s the thing about Love: it expands. Love fills The Gap, like sweet rain pattering and pooling to fill the cracks of my heart’s parched desert land.
Here’s how it works: when I relax into The Gap and allow a space between what I can do and what needs to get done, then I stop reaching so desperately for what I want. This stopping creates space for me to actually receive what I want. That might seem counter-intuitive, but consider: the very act of reaching carries a hidden message with it. Reaching actually boomerangs in my soul. It pushes away the very thing I want by telling me “I don’t have it.” For example, I reach for losing 50 more pounds – without accepting the joy of already losing 50 – and I get desperate for that scale to go down every week. I overlook what I’ve already accomplished. All I see is the 50 pounds I haven’t lost, what I don’t have. I get so desperate to fill my lack that I become unhappy. Well, I’ve just pushed away the thing I really want: to be happy. Ironically, that’s why I started this whole journey in the first place. I wanted to lose 100 pounds in 1 year, so I would be happy. In contrast, by living in total acceptance and trusting The Gap to get me the rest of the way, I create space to feel happy about my weight loss right here, right now. I get what I want.
Well, I like getting what I want, so I want to know how I can stop reaching and start living in The Gap. This brings me to another quick, simple, practical tip:
Practical Tip: Forgive Myself
You might think, What do mean, “forgive yourself?” You haven’t done anything wrong! I agree. I haven’t. It’s perfectly fine for me to want to finish a half marathon, hate my feet for hurting, and condemn my body for getting sick. It’s just what happened to me. If I look a layer deeper, however; I realize that I didn’t stop at just hating my body. I started hating myself. Subtle whispers of judgment started creeping in: You’re never going to finish this. You might as well just give in. At the time, I didn’t realize I was judging myself, but it was there. I’ve learned, If I continue to tamp down these thoughts by pushing the ignore button on my spiritual cell, then they mushroom into worry, anxiety, depression, even guilt.
In order to prevent this toxic buildup, I need a better definition of forgiveness, something that doesn’t come pre-packed with accusation. Forgiveness is not excusing what someone did to me, because forgiveness is not the opposite of accusing. It’s more like what the letters in the word actually spell out: for—give. Forgiveness is the act of giving a space for someone, as if laying a new path before them, to change. Forgiveness believes in possibility. It looses the past and makes way for a different future. This kind of forgiveness springs me back into The Now, into Unconditional Love. It’s also how I can live in The Gap and link acceptance to hope. It’s what makes two, seemingly-opposing ideas become one, mighty force.
How does this translate to keeping off my weight? Out of all the things I could try, why choose to forgive myself? I could muster all my mind muscle and discipline, but all it takes is something stressful to knock me off my game. I can always rally and “get back on the horse,” but that doesn’t work if the stress keeps coming. Last time I regained weight, I binged to numb the pain of my daughter moving out of town, my husband losing his job, and my house going into foreclosure. Discipline just couldn’t power me through all that.
Another option: hire a personal trainer and depend on someone else’s discipline. Hmmmm; still digging myself out of the financial hole from that last go-‘round. Not in the budget. Even if I could afford ongoing personal training, I would be embattled in the fake fight I talked about in Part 1. My weapon may be a personal trainer, instead of a gun, but I still create a world where I have an enemy. As I explained in Part 1, this situation is the surest way for me to gain weight. An extra layer of fat is a visible, tangible barrier against my imagined foe. Ultimately, staying in the battle – whatever I’m fighting – distracts me from receiving the happiness I really want. Plus, if I’m depending on a personal trainer’s viewpoint to measure my worth, then I’m still relying on outward queues for my self-esteem.
I could also chuck the idea of any discipline at all and repeat positive mantras ten times in the rearview mirror while waiting at random stoplights. This might make me feel better, until the light turns green. As I described in Part 2, this technique is more of resisting what is, which doesn’t soothe the festering hurts which spur my weight gain in the first place. Repeating mantras is more like surveying my garden after a gang of ravenous rabbits munched it to shreds overnight and saying to myself, “No, those stubs of lettuce look just fine. I didn’t really want fresh, ripe tomatoes anyway.”
For keeping my weight off, I believe forgiveness is the fool-proof way. In fact, for receiving anything good in Life, I believe forgiveness is the only way. Forgiving myself stops resisting what is, plants me in The Now, plugs me into the renewable power source of I Am, and heals a lot of built-up hurt along the way. Plus, I still reap the bennies of all those methods I just mentioned, without the static cling. Forgiveness works even in the most stressful of times. It brings me a measure of self-worth that nothing can take away. I even found myself waiting at a stop light the other day, looking down at my thighs poked out from a summer skirt, and thinking, Gosh, my quads are looking good.
Weight loss aside, I haven’t mentioned the sweetest benefit to forgiving myself: making room for The Gap. In order to let The Gap work in my life, I need to let it be there. The easiest thing to do is to rush in, fill my need with my own strength, and make things happen. Nope. That’s not how The Gap works. In fact, that’s the surest way to not even see The Gap. Consider, though, the urge to rush in. Why do I have that instinct? I believe it’s because I’m afraid that I’m not enough, and I think I should be enough. I’m judging myself. That judgment puts a cork in the flow of Life. In order to make way for The Gap, I need to let go and let Life flow. I need to release judgment and be o.k. with needing help. Forgiving myself is a practical way to do this. When I notice that I’m judging myself, I don’t just stop at noticing. I take the next step and opt for forgiveness instead of might. Now I’ve set myself up to discover that I don’t have to be all put together to receive magic and miracles. Now I get to wait and see what happens next.
Shelby is on her most revealing and thrilling adventure yet: to find out what it’s like to lose 100 pounds in 1 year.