My two older children are rather obsessed with their age. They think that at age 31 (son) and 29 (daughter), the course of their life has been set in stone. My son believes he is stuck at a desk in a basement office at a famous, prestigious corporation that many people look up to but which he strongly dislikes. My daughter, though multi-talented in music and art, is stuck in her room all day writing songs that she doesn't have the confidence to promote. I ask them, "Why do you think you have to stay in this miserable state of mind? You are free. You can do anything you want. You can quit your job and travel the world on a shoestring until you figure out what to do next. You can gather up the courage to send in your songs, steel yourself for rejection, and then try again."
When you pinpoint your mission, a path will open up before you. I've believed this for a long time, but the problem is that while I've spouted this philosophy off to my children, I haven't applied it to myself, and my children therefore have not seen a good example of how dreams and goals can take shape and be realized. Talking is different from doing, so in order to help my children, I have come to understand that I must lead by example. Even when your children are all "grown up" and you swear you're going to retire from the job of being a mother, your job does not end, and this revelation (obvious to most) has recently been guiding me toward big change. I am not being self-denigrating when I say how badly I need to change my very flawed self. I am just describing an epiphany, a joyful but shocking awakening from a long sleep when my real self had been so deeply buried that I had given up hope without even knowing it.
For example, the other day, I heard my husband and daughter having a conversation in Japanese, and I kept interrupting, "What does that mean? Could you translate that?" And then I thought to myself I have been in Japan for thirty-four years. Thirty-four years! Why have I not learned Japanese well enough to talk about things beyond the weather, people's behavior on the train, and how expensive lettuce is at the moment? When I was in university, I was focused, intense, willing to work hard and learn new things. Granted, I was often motivated only by the desire to get good grades and for people to call me smart, but in general, I had a big yearning for knowledge. What in the world dampened my spirit and stole away my confidence? I'd like to know, but instead of wasting time figuring out all the reasons I'm just a shadow of my former self, I vow to study Japanese intensively at least two hours every day. Japanese is not easy. It's not like learning French or Spanish, which resemble English so much more closely and were easy to me in school (but don't speak to me in those languages now). To read Japanese competently, you need to know about 2000 Chinese characters. When I first came to Japan, I learned a lot of characters and used to write post cards to my Japanese friends. I have lost my skills and am now almost illiterate. I do not like my incompetence, but I have control over it and will zap it. I've wasted time, but it's not too late.
There are several other areas of my life where I used to strive for excellence but no longer do, but today I'll mention just one more, which I think is relevant to a lot of people here on SparkPeople. Again, I want to ask why did this happen? Why do I find myself more than fifty pounds overweight? My twenty-year-old self would find this horrifying, but at least on the surface it seems somewhere along the way my own obesity became somehow acceptable to me. For a very long time, I continued to work out even though I was overweight. I did exercise videos (loved the Firm videos in the 90s and early 00s), walked miles every day, joined sports clubs, did diet programs, and cared about fashion. The weight crept up, but at twenty pounds overweight and then thirty pounds overweight, I still felt good, my muscles were discernible, and I kept exercising. And then I reached a tipping point some time in the past five years when my joints began to hurt more than they had before. I exercised through that, and then it got more painful, and then I didn't exercise as much, and then I used pain as an excuse not to exercise, and then I lost the muscle tone I had had even when I was overweight, and my clothes started not fitting, and that made me feel worse, so at night I would eat and drink beer to assuage the emotional pain of letting myself go, and it didn't matter usually because my family loves me and doesn't nag me about my weight, Japanese doctors were too polite to mention it, and in my job as an English teacher to Japanese company employees, the only time I felt self-conscious about it was at the first class meeting, when even though of course the students never commented on my weight or indicated that they noticed it at all, I felt that in their minds I fit into the category of fat. That was a problem I dealt with in flashes in my mind but I squashed those thoughts by doing what I thought was a really good job of making sure my students learned a lot of English in my class. I worked so hard--to teach with all my heart and to forget that deep down I do not like being obese.
My main reason for not liking obesity at the moment is that it has suddenly greatly exacerbated my knee pain and made the prospect of ending up in a wheelchair very likely. I do not like the way it takes me about thirty seconds to wait for the excruciating pain to subside when getting out of the driver's seat in the car, before I can walk across the parking lot to the store. I do not like the way my knees hurt in the middle of the night and make it an ordeal to change positions. I know I face a knee replacement or two and feel optimistic this will restore my mobility, but I can't help regretting letting myself get so overweight that the problem is likely much worse than it would have been otherwise.
And--let's be honest--almost everyone who is overweight would prefer not to be. It's politically incorrect to say this, but I am just speaking what I think is the truth. I would prefer to be in the normal weight range not only for health reasons but also because I think I look better--to others and to myself. Don't you want your own family members to look as clean, neat, healthy, and attractive as they can? We should want this for ourselves, too. I want to stop avoiding looking into storefront windows, stop asking that when my children take photos of me they show only my face, stop having too small a choice of what to wear when getting ready for work because I am always planning to lose weight and fit into smaller clothes and am therefore reluctant to buy clothes in my present size. If you don't feel you look good, your life will be limited, not necessarily by others--who may judge you or not notice or care whether you are obese--but by yourself, who will not be able completely to let you forget that you are dissatisfied and who will make sure you are always, on some level, aware of your excess weight.
So I'm tracking. Tracking is a reminder three times a day of a reality I've tried too long to ignore--I'm overweight, I'm in pain, and I'm not happy with the way I look. Tracking is also a reminder that we can do things to take care of ourselves and to effect change. I've been overweight and have ignored reality for a very long time, but I know there is a way to a happier state.
Envision the path and keep on walking.