On this date four years ago, my then four-year-old niece sat on my lap while we watched their town’s (very impressive) fireworks display.
She kept squirming to get comfortable. She pointed out her favorites and tried to guess mine. Finally, we were both still, and silent. And then:
Meggie, will you live forever?
Hmm…no, honey. Not forever. Nobody lives forever.
Well…will you live to be 100?
Oh, I don’t know. But I’ll be a very, very old lady.
And that was it. Tears sprang up in my eyes; they rolled down my cheeks. I thought…100? At this rate, what will 60 even look like?
I was in awful shape and it no longer mattered how it had happened. Any number of factors – regardless of how many of them weren’t “my fault” – didn’t matter.
I’d received what I’ve come to call my final whisper, and it instantly became a shout. Quinn asked a question that she’d meant nothing by, as kids that age do (all day). But that noise in my mind was telling me that I wanted to live as happy of a life for as long as I could with the people who love me most. And, back then, I was NOT on track to do so, and it was solely up to me to make it happen. No one was going to save me, which was overwhelming, but it was up to me, which was empowering.
I see more doctors/specialists than most of my friends, yet not one doctor in the years since my weight had ballooned had given me any indication that my weight was a concern (shame on them), or that my life wouldn’t be as long and healthy as anyone else’s (yet) – but it already wasn’t as happy. I was tired, stressed, very overweight, constantly needing to buy new clothes that I hated/couldn’t afford/didn’t recognize myself in, and had become inactive outside of my slightly active commute and job. So would I even want to live to 100? (No, but honestly, I still don’t. That’s way too old for my liking. But I digress.) So that was that. And there was no looking back.
When people ask what I’ve done, as many have and continue to do in person and through private messages, I don’t really know what to say – not because I don’t know what I’ve done, but because I know what a lot of them are looking for: a much faster fix. Sadly, I have nothing to sell, but more power to anyone who does. No, I didn’t have any type of weight-loss-related surgery, but more power to anyone who has.
Simply put, I started doing the stuff that I hope to still be doing when I’m 60 – exercising, trying new things with my body, keeping up with the young people in my life. And my Tuesdays look and feel the same as my Fridays. And I have a completely different relationship with food, although it doesn’t look like it to anyone but me. And I watch my mouth -okay, not really – meaning I don’t talk about and don’t think about things as cheats or excuses or rewards or what I’m allowed to do/have/skip, but rather…life, because that’s what works for my brain – and also because there could always be someone listening and learning from you, young or old. And I’m as nice to myself as I can possibly be for someone who is, ya know…not always perfectly nice to anyone, really, because I’m an imperfect human and a New Yorker and a redhead and still tired and stressed sometimes.
I never had a “goal” other than to just feel completely differently than I did right then, and that was a LOT harder than putting a number in my mind or a goal dress in my closet. But it was also far more realistic, healthy, and purposeful. Looking differently was a byproduct of wanting to feel better and move more easily – which was all I was focused on. I could’ve gotten here faster, sure, but not as happily or as healthily, and certainly not as successfully.
Yes, there are more specific details, and ones I’m happy to share with people who need them and want them, but so many people are crestfallen when I tell them there’s no name for it, like the ____________ diet or __________ shakes/bars or the just omit ___________ trick or __________ delivery service. No counting, no shaking, no fasting, NO omiting, but please no freaking kale. There ya go – there’s the name. Here comes the book deal.
A lot of things we are each up against are really, really, seemingly impossibly hard – and many of us have more than one of those things on our shoulders. A lot of those are things are invisible and heavy or dark and we would never, in a million years, want to share those struggles with other people. So don’t – or do! Do you. There are too many options out there in an age when we constantly carry a computer in our hands to not find a way to be as happy as possible – if not for yourself, for the people who love you as much as that former four-year-old loves me.
Just listen for and celebrate the shouts & whispers that tell us which are actually worth working for and table the rest for now. That’s my unsolicited advice which, as I always say, is my specialty.
A final note: Life is short, and summer is shorter. No one interesting cares what you look like in a bathing suit but you. And yes, I adopted that philosophy four summers ago when I felt my absolute worst, and that made a world of difference in a summer when I was doing a lot of stuff on my own, much of it in just my busy, loud mind. Happy summer, whatever that looks like for you. You can have my kale.