Just a Little Bit

When I graduated from high school, I weighed about 185 pounds. At just over 6’3, I was one skinny dude. Whenever I found myself at a swimming pool or a water park, I was embarrassed to remove my shirt, as every time there would be some joke about how many ribs you could count or if my parents were starving me.

The high metabolism of teenager was a curse. I never learned good eating habits, or how to control myself when it came to food. If there was pizza, I ate until it was gone. Ice cream and cake could be devoured by the half gallon and full cake pan. I recall one week where I drank four Big Gulps each day. It was commonplace to have at least two a day, everyday.  Even when I tried to put on weight, I couldn’t manage more than two or three pounds in a four month time frame.

I convinced myself I could go on like this forever. I was seriously surprised when in my mid twenties, I stepped on a scale for the first time in five years, and discovered I was pushing 230. I knew I had gained weight. My stomach was rounder than it had ever been and clothes didn’t fit the way they used to fit. Now, when I went swimming or to water parks, the shirt stayed on for the opposite reason as before.

A job at UPS dropped thirty of those pounds in a hurry and I felt I’d found the secret. Hard, physical labor would allow me to continue eating the same foods, doing the same things.

When I went back to school full time, the job was no longer an option. The weight came back , and then some. I peaked at 245.

Over the course of the next ten years, various attempts at losing, maintaining weight left me floating between 225 pounds and the dreaded 245. I convinced myself I didn’t look heavy, that all men my age put on some weight. It wasn’t until I had to up the waist size of my pants once again (and buy dress shirts with an 18 neck) that I realized things were getting dangerously out of control.

The scale revealed I had reached a new peak. 252. I was frustrated, sickened, depressed and worst of all, hopeless in the face of what I had done to myself.

Sheryl’s family started a contest-Whoever lost the most percentage of overall body weight would get free babysitting. Surprising to me, the contest brought out a competitiveness I didn’t think I had. Three months and 40 pounds later, I felt better, looked better, was better.

Unfortunately, that sort of weight loss is never permanent. I had reduced calories, not changed the way I thought about food or exercise. I had found some determination to not eat, but in my head I knew this was temporary.  Naturally, once the contest was over and old routines returned, some of the weight came back. I still looked pretty good so I didn’t let it bother me.

This has been the trend for the last four years. I get complacent, gain some of the weight back, then get angry and force it off.

But this post isn’t about weight loss, really. I use it as an example of the way I think about too many things. I get frustrated at failure, consumed by my lack of commitment, get mad enough to make some slight changes, then slip back into the same routines. I do this with writing, with family, friends, but especially food and exercise. Every little set back seems to consume me and all the mantras in the world (do better, feel the success, focus on the positives) leave me empty.

Slowly, I am realizing something.

Again, it is simple and something I have known for a long time. Life is a continual progression filled with high and low moments, some lasting longer than we anticipate. Unfortunately, we rarely focus on the good times. Rather than see that overall, I am healthier, in better shape, happier, I focus on a number on a scale. Of course I can do better, find ways to balance out my diet with the foods I enjoy eating, but to be honest, I am getting better every day. I need to focus on that.

When I pay attention, I see this everywhere. I am becoming a better friend, a more attentive father, a better writer, bit by bit. Even the worst days, where I see only failure, am overcome by all the band choices I have made, there is something positive I can focus on. Maybe I went to bed at a decent hour, or talked with the boys and showed genuine interest in what they had to say. I may not have published a blog but I did write three sentences, two paragraphs, a good email.  Perhaps I ate too much at dinner, but it was on a date night with Sheryl and our relationship is now closer, more loving.

I try not to end blogs with a question much anymore, but I am deeply curious-What do you think about any or all of this? How do you fight through the confusion and frustration of continual failure? Tell me your secrets. I need to hear them.

All of us, every day,  a bit better at something.


About fenster

There are some who call me, Tim?

4 responses to “Just a Little Bit”

  1. Kent Shelton says :

    I think it is a natural cycle we all go through in many different ways. If we didn’t feel deep disappointment at our failures, we would never have the motivation to try try again. I like to try and focus on making one small improvement in my life and doing it each day. Once it becomes a part of who I am, I can move on to some new thing I can do to improve myself.

    • fenster020 says :

      I like that, but I worry I focus too much on the failures, failing to see the wonderful things that are around me, that make my life richer already. I don’t want to let those things continue on, ignored, until the are gone forever and only then realize what I had, what I should have been thrilled about.

  2. Aaron says :

    It’s a delicate balance. I think of Neal Maxwell’s term: divine discontent. I strive to harbor a quiet urge to always do better, while learning to be satisfied with what I am doing well. You are right that it is so easy to focus on what is NOT happening, what I am NOT doing. Today in church we were encouraged to take time out and write out our priorities, then re-visit them often with our spouses. This is something that Patricia and I don’t do often enough–and if I can support our marriage in doing this simple chore, I am confident that we will be better off individually, as a couple, as parents, and as a family. It occurs to me that if Patricia and I do not take the time to regularly review our priorities, we are cheating ourselves out of the major benefit of marriage: that of working together towards our mutual happiness. Reading this post today, along with the counsel at church, has inspired me to once again work towards greater self-mastery. Thanks, Ryan.

    • fenster020 says :

      Excellent! Of course we still need to be aware of the places in our lives we need to work, the things we’re not doing well. I love the idea of writing priorities down and discussing them with your partner. What a great way to spark communication, connection and growth. Brilliant! It is too easy to get caught up in life, in the always and ever busy things that get in the way. Those moments of reflection and openness are too rare.

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