Forgive yourself, move forward!
To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that prisoner was you. ~ Lewis B. Smedes
So I’m a big believer in an overall single goal in life, that goal is to constantly improve. I think this comes from being so unhappy and frankly fucked up earlier in my life. I went from being a confused and angry kid who stuck a gun in his mouth at 14 with the intent of pulling the trigger, to being a full blown alcoholic and addict by 19. It was at that point that I made a very important decision in my life, simply that decision was to get better.
Now if I’m known for one thing it is for being brutally honest. I’m 56, so I made that decision almost 40 years ago. I’d love to tell you that I made that decision and by 21 hallelujah, love was great and I was happy. That’s not how it works, it takes time and it takes work. Through my 20’s and early 30’s I suffered with severe bouts of depression. But I worked on it. There was an entire list of things I needed to work on. I needed to find a way out of my depression, I needed to get healthier, I needed to get past my anger, I needed to learn how to let go better, I needed to learn how to forgive, I needed to learn to not care about what other people thought and trust myself.
I’m happy to say I’ve done all of these things to varying degrees. None of it was easy but all of it was worth the effort. Tonight a short and pointed post to drive home a single point, perhaps the most important tool I’ve developed along the way, is the ability to forgive myself. The place where that has been most useful is in dieting and eating healthier.
I sit here writing this at 182 pounds, which is the lowest weight of my adult life. I used to weigh 250 pounds, that was back in 2002. I honestly have a hard time getting my head around the fact that I used to carry around another 70 pounds. It’s only through looking at old photos that I really get the difference between then and now. So yes, I’ve lost 70 pounds, but I’ve done it over 20 years. This is not the pace people want typically, they want to lose all the weight tomorrow. But it just doesn’t work that way, because weight loss involves change, the more weight you to lose, the more change you have to make in your life. So you make changes, and then inevitably you backslide. That’s where self-forgiveness comes into play. It’s easy to try and lose weight, lose a couple of pounds then fall off of your diet. For me it happens because something gets your emotions stirred up and for me, the way I feel better is to get a pizza and a bottle of coke. Or perhaps some cookies or a cake, or at times all of the above. This happened to me this past week.
I had a particularly rough day and just said the hell with it and bought a pizza and a 20 ounce coke for dinner. Now given I’m both trying to lose weight, overall trying to eat better and working to get my blood sugar back under control, this was bad, bad and bad. What can easily happen at this point is that you say to yourself I’ve failed, you punish yourself mentally and since you feel bad, you eat a bag of cookies. Then you feel bad, rinse and repeat. This spiral is a horrible thing to get into, so you have to forgive yourself. Yes, on Tuesday I fell apart a little, I ate terribly but on Wednesday morning the first thing I did after weighing myself was to forgive myself. I’m human, I make mistakes, so I forgave myself for the mistake and started over. It’s what’s truly meant by taking it one day at a time. This works, I’m living proof of it.
Self-forgiveness helps in subtler ways as well. Today for me has been all about forgiving myself. Over the last year I’ve been fighting with self-motivation. I’ve fallen into this pattern of working and then eating, working out a bit and then pretty much doing nothing for the rest of the evening. Which means I haven’t worked on my current book, I’ve stalled out on a course I’m taking, I’ve drastically slowed down on going through and selling my collectibles to reduce my overall possessions. It’s not that I haven’t been doing good things, I’m doing my job, I’m working out consistently, I’m eating well, I do a Spanish language lesson every day. But I have ambition to do so many more things and normally I work on those. That hasn’t been happening and so yesterday, I had an enjoyable day, betting horse races, I won some money on the Preakness and even picked up a new mattress. However, there were a list of things that I wanted to get done this weekend and I made no progress. So I went to bed feeling guilty with a huge to do list in my head for today.
But that new mattress is wonderful, I slept really well last night. When I woke up I decided to give up the list and just take the day. So I lazed in bed for a bit and did some reading. I cooked a big brunch for myself. I’ve watched a little TV, did a little writing and basically just relaxed. But what I had to do first was just give myself a break. It’s okay that I don’t get anything done today. More than that, It’s okay that my motivation has been off, and that some of the things I’ve wanted to do have fallen by the wayside.
It’s been a really hard year for all of us. We need to process the fact that we’ve all been through significant trauma over the last year. These have come at a lot of levels, but they’ve all been centered around loss. We’ve lost people, mobility, some level of freedom, and for me a big thing, we’ve lost opportunities and time. So the fact that we haven’t been at our best, HAS to be okay. You have to forgive yourself if over the last year you haven’t been the best parent, employee, child, friend and on and on. Just like a diet, what you have to do is forgive yourself and move on. The goal always, is to do a little better tomorrow than you did today, like compound interest, it leads to big things over time. And when you backtrack a day, forgive yourself and get back to it tomorrow. You’ll never be perfect and that is okay. If you can do this a couple of things will happen, first you will get better and achieve your goals. Secondly, you’ll have more happier days my friends. ~ Rev Kane