Maintenance. I kind of hate this term. Someone asked me recently if it was great to finally be in maintenance. I had to reply that I didn’t know because I didn’t consider myself “a maintainer”.
Sure, I’ve kept off the weight that I lost a couple of years ago. In the weight loss world this makes me a maintainer. But I’ve hardly maintained anything other than a commitment to keep improving my health and fitness.
Maintenance implies satisfaction with where one is at. It implies staying static…holding the line…not changing. I don’t feel like this is my life at all. I wanted to say that I’m in the opposite of maintenance, but every dictionary I consulted for this opposite gave me words like neglect…disrepair…ignorance. That’s not right either!
Instead I feel as if there are regularly new challenges and problems to navigate and find solutions for. When life doesn’t present these to me, I have been forcing myself to seek them out…no matter how small those challenges may be. It’s through navigating these challenges that I’ve continued to learn, grow and develop.
In addition to seeking out new challenges to face, it’s important to remember that losing weight doesn’t magically make all the issues related to food, weight, body image, exercise, confidence, etc. disappear. Contrary to promises in popular media, being a smaller size is a not a magic pill for happiness and perfection. Even at 120 lbs lighter than I once was, I am still constantly working on all of the issues that got me and kept me obese for so long. Recovery is more than just losing the weight (but that’s a whole other post…).
Maintenance is where I was for 28 years of my life. Maintenance is what kept me obese and unhealthy. THAT was neglect…disrepair…ignorance. As bad as that sounds, I was comfortable there. Losing weight didn’t get me to “maintenance”. It took me away from that point and helped me learn how to challenge myself and grow.
Actively work to avoid maintenance. Seek out challenges and problems to solve, big and small. Learn from the process of facing those challenges and take that knowledge with you as you keep moving forward and growing.
After a great workout on Friday, a conversation started up around the gym as we were stretching about before and after photos and success stories. I can’t recall exactly how we got going on the topic, but we were all interested in what others had to say as always. This is one of the things I like most about our gym community – almost everyone is interested in the stories and successes of those around them.
Because it’s a topic that’s been on my mind lately (and one that I just posted about), I was quick to share my displeasure with being reduced to just a before and after photo. I know that those who know me understand that there is so much behind both sides of the photo, but I do get frustrated when people only see the surface. No matter who it is and what kind of transformation they’ve made, the side-by-side photos are just the tip of the iceberg.
I completely own this issue as my own. It’s another example of having to find peace with the actions and choices of others, over which I have no control. I can only control myself and my thoughts, so I’m working to reframe my thinking on this subject.
One friend continued the iceberg metaphor by saying “There are a lot of icebergs out there. People are going to choose which ones they explore and learn from.” If it frustrates me that people may only see the surface through the photo that is presented to them, I can take it upon myself to make this particular iceberg hospitable for curious explorers.
We also chatted a bit about the responsibility that some of us feel to put ourselves out there, having fought through some struggle and come out on the other side. I know I’ve often felt this way…with so many junk gurus out there and so much misinformation, I do feel a responsibility to share my experiences with changing my life to possibly give someone in a similar situation an opportunity to learn from what I experienced. I never claim to have it all figured out, but I do think someone else out there can take something from what I’ve been through along this journey and apply that to their own journey.
So my feelings that I have something to say and should make an effort to say it were reaffirmed again. I’ve got to continue to challenge myself to speak up and put myself out there to satisfy this desire. Some of the comments I made in that gym conversation a couple of days ago really caused me to step outside my comfort zone in terms of what I would usually share, but it was worthwhile. Sharing more of myself freely will hopefully send the message that this particular iceberg is a safe and welcoming place to explore and learn.
That’s where I am. I have this compelling feeling that I have something worthwhile to say, but I’m facing down a big fear of opening up a part of myself and showing vulnerability.
I think we can all quickly point to many times in our lives when we were vulnerable or took risks and somehow got burned. The pain of those memories can be powerful…remembering one instance where a risk didn’t pay off can keep holding us back for years if we let it. I do this all the time.
But surely there are times in my past when I took a risk and was greatly rewarded? Absolutely. I forced myself to think of three examples and it didn’t take long to come up with these when I made the effort:
- I discovered a new local gym last summer and took a chance to check it out during a grand opening open house. It required me to step outside of my comfort zone not only in meeting new people, but also in going to a place where I didn’t yet feel I belonged. Fit people and athletes go to gyms, not me, I remember thinking at the time. Turns out, it was an amazing decision to take the leap. We’ve been going to classes at that gym ever since and it’s provided the opportunity to connect with some excellent like-minded people and to continually challenge and improve myself physically.
- Some time last year I saw a Groupon deal for a tour package to China. China was never a place I thought I’d visit, but something about the good deal and the late winter stir-craziness I was experiencing at the time pushed me to book the trip. It’s not that I had never traveled overseas before, but traveling to Asia was a huge leap outside my comfort zone. Despite minor pre-trip freak outs about facing the unknown and foreign experience, I had one of the best trips of my life. Experiencing a place and a culture which is so different from my own was enlightening. I was able to see and do some incredible stuff on that trip and I’ll never forget the entire experience.
- I almost didn’t include this one because my first thought when I recalled this experience was remembering the slight negative consequence. Last summer we went white water rafting in the mountains. The rafting experience itself wasn’t that unnerving to me. I have always loved water and felt very comfortable with water and boats (thanks to mom and dad who first took me out on the water when I was 6 months old and continued through my childhood). However, the day of rafting included an opportunity to jump off a cliff (maybe 15-20 feet). Falling is my single biggest fear. But close behind is the fear of missing out, so I drew on all the courage I had and made the jump. It was exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time and I felt a rush of excitement immediately afterward. That quickly disappeared when I realized I had gotten a significant quantity of water in my ears and could hardly hear. A few hours later, it had improved slightly, however my ears were still plugged with water and it turned into a painful experience requiring rushed trips to the pharmacy for pain killers and ear de-watering treatments. The experience of water-logged ears for days almost obscured the victory of facing down my biggest fear and taking a great leap. Now I can look back and enjoy the pride I feel in having done that.
These are all from the past year or so and their fresh memory is why they were the first to come to mind. But I’ve also been making an effort to push myself outside my comfort zone more and more, hence this blog renewal. I’ve been making this push because I’ve experienced that great things happen when you leave your comfort zone. This is where the big changes in life occur and it’s where the most magical experiences take place.
Opening up and sharing what I have to say is a natural progression in my efforts to step outside of the comfort zone. I need to remember the examples of great rewards I’ve reaped from taking risks in the past and let these rewards guide and push me towards making more steps towards continuous growth, change, and excitement.
The things I want to say and share are just parts of me. Anyone who would read these words and react or judge me negatively based on them is probably not someone who I want or need to have approval from anyways. Who knows….maybe someone else will end up reading these words and finding something worthwhile in them. Sharing not only helps me, but has the potential to help others too.
So, what will I do when I have something to say but am too afraid to say it? I’ll remember the great rewards that come from being brave and facing fear. I’ll remember that sharing my thoughts and experiences benefits me by allowing me to reflect and learn from myself and my experiences. And I’ll remember that those who should matter to me would never react negatively to me sharing a part of myself.