For the past month, I’ve been threatening myself with exercise.
I never used to consider myself particularly unhealthy, though I’ve never been the best at paying attention. I was the child in a corner with a book and a mouthful of chips, oblivious to the world, and that was fine by me. I spent most of my time sitting or lying down: reading, writing, and even blogging with considerably more faithfulness than I now possess. Mom made sure we got a lot of good home cooking and not so much fast food, and also required us to maintain the house, which is probably what saved me. And there were the paper routes I always helped with.
Then I got a job where I was required to be on my feet for several consecutive hours a day, dashing back and forth across an often slippery floor, hefting bags of sugar and boxes of frozen food, pounding blenders and blocks of ice. I started getting compliments from people that I looked fit. I hadn’t really lost much weight, but I had traded my fat for muscle. It felt good.
I’ve always strived to be independent in as many areas as possible, and now that I found myself lifting 50-pound bags with ease, I wanted to make sure I could always do that. I don’t like being weak. I want to make myself capable of as much as possible, in case an extra pair of hands is ever needed. I cherish being useful.
And yes, it was also to show off. I’ll admit it, it is nice being able to lift more than guys 2 years older than me.
So for the first time in my life, I was fit, and all that changed was I got out of my chair and stopped eating whenever I got bored. No exercise regime, no special diet, just a little more attention to my body.
When I switched jobs and landed back at a desk, I panicked a little. But I found that I was too used to motion to settle down, and I usually paced the office while I was on the phone. It also helped when the printer, which I used regularly, was stationed across the room. I often skipped breakfast (which I will admit can less healthy than eating it), made wraps and salads for lunch, and got in at least a 1/2 mile walk every day during my break, because that was the round-trip distance to the bathroom.
I was so determined to stay fit, I even bought myself a yoga mat.
And then I quit my job and came home.
I’ve picked up some good habits over the last three years, which I think is all that has saved me. I would never call myself a health freak, but I like knowing and being able to pronounce the ingredients in my food, I enjoy colorful food a lot more than I used to (and I don’t mean cheetos), and I’ve rediscovered my passion for tea.
Still, I knew eating properly would not be enough (and I haven’t exactly been eating well in the first place). I knew I had to make myself get off the couch and out of the house, because being on my feet for an hour a day doing housework was not going to cut it.
I tried edging around the problem by doing planks in the morning or beating up the punching bag, but neither of those worked. So for a month I muttered to myself and the rest of my family that I needed to start walking in the morning.
I kept making excuses about it, like the weather and my lack of reflective gear and what-have-you. This last week, I eliminated the last of those excuses when I got myself a vest from Walmart which practically glows. It’s neon peach.
And yesterday I ignored the darkness and the chill, grabbed my dog, and set out.
I forgot my headband, so the act of wearing my headphones caused an ache to develop all the way from my ear, down my jawline, to my neck. My thermal shirt is evidently non-wicking, so while I sweat during my spurts of sprinting, the moisture collected on the inside of my vest. I had wrapped my dog’s reflective leash around my hips for the sake of my fingers, as she pulls unless I provide a steady supply of treats, and now my hips are sore.
But I did it. And we walked/jogged/tripped 2.5 miles. Granted, it took 40 minutes, but I’m ok with that.
I’m still not a health freak. I don’t exercise solely because I like looking thin (though, like most girls, that is an added bonus). But I became addicted to the concept that my body is a vessel, a tool, given to me by God for me to take care of. I have a host of hereditary health issues against me, but I am determined to maintain this vessel to the best of my ability, with the considerable knowledge I am amassing, so I never have to step back and say it’s too much for me to handle.
I climbed a mountain in Peru in the fog, in nothing but my sneakers and street clothes, and walked away with nothing but a scratch on my hand. I regularly help people move heavy furniture, especially recently with the arrival of Gram. I often heft my 60-pound dog for fun to prove I can. Every few weeks I load up 50-pound bags of dog food or chicken feed in my car, then unload them at the house, with no assistance, even when it is offered.
I can change my own tires (as I’ve had to prove twice in the last year), check my oil and other car fluids, fill my own gas tank, and drive my car through an oil change and car wash. I even know what most of the smells and some of the smoke signals mean. I know how to drive in blizzards and torrential downpours, against wind and while hydroplaning.
I have a grasp of Greek and Latin roots and can often define a word just by how it sounds. I know how to use reference books to find the information I need, can walk myself through a how-to manual, and am handy at a Google search as a last resort.
I can cook, teach any age group a Bible lesson, direct activities, give directions to people’s houses, paint, wash windows (though I really shouldn’t), mop a floor by hand, change a diaper, and fold fitted sheets.
Lately, I’m trying to overcome my aversion to certain foods. I’ve conquered tomatoes and am on my way through squash and mushrooms. (I’m a texture person and no denying.)
I don’t say all of this to brag. I’m just trying to make a point. Most of this I forced myself to learn. No one taught me, except for the cooking and house care. I did learn through other people’s examples, of course, but often figured it out myself with my lovingly-instilled common sense and God-given love of books. I want to keep pushing my boundaries and never let “I don’t know how” stop me, despite my food allergies and varicose veins and possible asthma. I don’t want to draw attention to my weaknesses, but to my strengths. I want to be someone people know they can rely on, someone they know will do her best even if she’s not quite sure what she’s doing and no one had a chance to provide detailed instructions.
I know I have said some of this before, and recently, but I felt it bore repeating. Yes, it was provoked. At Bible study, several people were having a discussion about serving God, and the way they kept limiting themselves made me cringe. The point had been that we aren’t here to please our flesh, and that we owe it nothing, but we owe God everything, and I agree. But along the way it was almost suggested that we should never experience the world, that we should never pursue our interests and new things, that we should never live unless it is in leading a class through a Bible lesson or joining a missionary in providing aid to disaster victims.
It’s like these silly people and their newfangled diets that prevent them from eating more than half of the delicious food God gave us, as if that stuff is cursed and useless and shouldn’t even exist (and particularly when they base their diet plan upon a way of life that is not in any way Biblically historical). God gave us all of this food to enjoy, not to punish ourselves with by looking but not eating. It is up to us to find out how best to use that food. Yes, some food does not work for some people, and that’s fine. But several ladies in my church have recently proven that, when taken with discretion and making sure the food is as pure as possible, all of it is good.
It’s the same with life. God gave us this whole world, in all of its diversity and challenges, for us to grow in. He doesn’t want us to narrow our vision to one building or one group of people or one pin on a map. He wants us to keep our eyes wide open. He wants to enable us to move, always move, wherever on this great terrestrial ball that He may direct. He wants us to touch and smell and hear and see what He has made for us.
I never want to be what’s holding me back from living; and when I say living, I mean reading diverse books and eating foreign food and traveling to exotic places as much as comforting orphans and telling strangers about Jesus and feeding and clothing the needy. It all works together, so that the experience of loving a strange food is a door to souls; having something as simple as the dust on my feet in common with a stranger is a gateway to conversation, and to shed God’s light in their life.
That, more than my appearance and the way my clothes fit, is why I force myself to walk 2 miles on a chill, damp October day. That is why I don’t accept the fact that there are some foods I don’t like the taste of, but why I am challenging myself to embrace more food. That is why I don’t care if it’s ladylike or that there are perfectly good young men standing around, but I’m going to stack the heavy chairs because no one else jumped forward to do it quickly enough.
If I ever find an honest-to-goodness limit that I cannot cross or overcome, even by God’s strength, I want that to be my only excuse for not doing more. And I want to train myself to not even accept that, but to find other ways around it, even if they are harder, to achieve what I originally set out to do.