Some days, I just want to give up. Quit thinking about my health all the time, eat piles of cake every single day of my life, smoke cigarettes all night long, and just quit trying.
It’s dumb but it’s a persistent daydream.
It’s stupid because this is my quality of life we’re talking about. The difference between sitting on the sidelines of life and joining in. The difference between climbing mountains and looking at pictures of mountains. The difference between challenging myself to do hard things and sitting on my butt watching other people do hard things on television. It matters.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve been rebooting my efforts. Getting back into the swing of my exercise routine and reminding myself of why I’m doing these things helps me to keep on trucking.
If I eat cake every day of my life, I will become diabetic, putting my eyesight, my hands and feet, and even my life in danger, literally shortening my life with every bite of cake.
I already know what my lungs feel like when I smoke cigarettes all the time—the smoker’s cough, the wheezing, the bad breath and damaged teeth. Not to mention the risk of cancer, emphysema and death, or heart disease.
Quitting trying would bring its own kind of death, the demise of my soul. It sounds melodramatic but I don’t think it is too extreme to say so. Trying—that ongoing effort toward something—is a defining factor in my life. What would I be saying to myself if I just quit trying to be healthier? That my life is worth nothing, this gorgeous, amazing life that nobody but me gets to enjoy? No, thanks.
In some ways, I’m starting all over, but in other ways, I’ve got this. It feels like it has taken me forever, but some of the lessons are slowly sinking in. One of the most important things in the process of moving from couch slug to an active lifestyle is accountability.
During the day yesterday, my daughter and I had talked about going out to run on a 5k trail near my house. When she contacted me to propose it, it was about 98 degrees and the last thing I wanted to do was get out in the heat and sweat. But I agreed to do it, because I need the exercise and because I try to push back against that recalcitrant attitude when it rears its head.
Right after work, it was still way too hot, and I wanted to push our date back later in the evening when its cooler. She agreed. Danger Will Robinson!
When it was time to go, I hemmed and hawed, and she hemmed and hawed. It was hot. I was tired and didn’t want to go any more. We decided to flip a coin—over video chat so there would be no cheating. The coin turned up tails: Permission to bail on our workout. I felt a little frisson of relief, along with a nice big dollop of guilt, like whipped cream with chocolate chips and candy sprinkles on top of a slab of cheesecake.
But even as we were both teetering on the edge, knowing full well that quitting the workout was a bad idea, she said, “I’m coming over. Let’s do this.” I agreed. She came over and we decided we would head to the track for some running. We went, we walked, we ran, we laughed, and we pushed around a really heavy thing on the football field that the players use to train. It was not the hardest workout of all time, but it was substantial enough to make me sore today—and the real point was showing up.
As I ran, my lungs wheezed and my heart pounded. It was a good reminder to me of why I exercise. When I started to get serious about my health, I had gotten to a point in my life where I couldn’t tie my own shoes without wheezing.
It was also a beautiful evening, and time I got to spend with my daughter, whose own efforts toward fitness inspire me daily. It was a way for each of us to show up both for ourselves and for each other. We celebrated the amazing feeling of being alive and walking on this precious Earth. It is a great privilege.