On Surrender, Acceptance and Lessons Learned

Ever since I was taken out of my running routine by injury, more than three months ago, I have struggled hard with food. From February to March, I could still do a mile or two per day, but I went from heavy marathon training to moderately active at best, and I didn’t do anything to change my intake. Naturally, my clothes started getting tight.

It only got worse mid-March, when my sciatic injury came roaring in. I was immobile for a week and only lightly active for many weeks following. That meant I had to force myself to try to eat about 1000 calories less per day. It wasn’t happening. I was bingeing on junk nearly daily – out of depression and anger and frustration, of course. So my clothes got even tighter and I felt horrible. Yet, I couldn’t stop stuffing my face. I told myself time and again as I bought cookies and ice cream and donuts “this isn’t helping anything” but I kept doing it anyway.

In April, I hit an emotional low. Remember this post about suffering? In retrospect, that post was not really about the physical pain at all; I am in similar pain now, but without any negative feelings about it. No, that post was really about hitting a mental wall with everything I had been doing to damage and punish myself.

All that hard walking I did last month wasn’t to get myself back to running shape. That was punishment and calorie burning for all the crap I was putting in me. It’s embarrassing to admit, but it’s the truth.

I remember near the end of April, I was talking to my big boss (president of the company), with whom I have a strong spiritual friendship, about how I was walking daily and soon I would be running regularly again. He nodded and said “okay, but what have you learned?” My whole torso tensed up and my face got hot. I felt angry and defensive because I knew the answer was “Nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

So I stopped. I threw my hands up and said “I give.” I surrendered to my body yelling at me, loudly, painfully, to just stop for a damn minute and rest. I finally accepted where I was instead of wishing and pushing – pushing so hard – for where I wanted to be. And peace returned. My insides stopped feeling like a tightly wound coil. I could breathe again. That 10 days of complete rest I took, the reading, the reevaluating, was just what I needed to get my head and heart back in the right place.

So what have I learned now? Much. Too much to try to get into words today. But two lessons that stand out are ones I keep learning over and over:

  1. Push push push is not the way to do anything in life. Life will push back. Acceptance is essential. In this case, I had to accept (and continue to accept) my current state of injury for what it is and move forward from there – gently and with grace, not with harshness and aggression. Nothing good ever came from that. I thought being strict and unkind and punishing myself was how to make me better. I was wrong.
  2. Proclamations never work, at least not for me. I cannot say “okay, I am going to straighten up and fly right starting tomorrow or starting Monday or starting after just this last bottle/box/bag of whatever” and boom, hooray, it happens. In fact, it has never once happened – not with quitting drinking or smoking, not with exercise, not with quitting sugar or quitting junk binges. Instead, I have to put my mind and heart right first. Only then do the behaviors follow. In this case, what has followed is an end to overeating. Without fanfare, without emotional promises to myself or anyone else, I have been eating in a way I consider to be ideal, for weeks, with no fidgety hunger and no temptation to binge. Go figure.

It’s funny how I seem to come up against some of the same life lessons again and again. I suppose many of us do. I can only hope, when faced with similar choices in the future, to get it right from the start. At least I am ever learning.

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