Thursday, December 13, 2012

Accepting the Bathroom Scale


I'm four days away from my surgery. I'm having a spinal fusion done on my neck, my second one of these particular operations. Yesterday, during pre-op the nurse and nurse practitioner were surprised to hear that I don't take any medication, that I have no allergies, that I'm generally in great health aside from this ache in my neck and arms. It got me to thinking about how I look at myself versus how things really are.

Each morning, like many people, I step on the scale and look down to curse the number that appears. This morning it was 211 pounds and that's about twenty-six pounds heavier than I dream of being and where I would be especially fit. I haven't been exercising much lately and it's not just because of my neck. This time of year is so busy, the weather is usually so cold, and it's so dark in the morning when I would usually get up and do something active. There are all sorts of reasons and, if I have to use this word, excuses. I tend to curse both the number on the scale and my own lack of will. It's a hell of a way to start the morning.

It's like that old Folger's jingle: "The best part of waking up is disappointment in my gut!"

Then I show up for an appointment and people are impressed with my health. My heart rate, blood pressure, even my veins were a delight to these people. And it wasn't just one person who I could write off as a nut, it was a couple of people and they seemed to be offering truly professional opinions.

It goes to show that the ways in which I view myself aren't terribly accurate especially when they are tempered by the lessons of my youth to avoid showing pride in myself. I judge myself not by the good things but by how fat my stomach is. And if my stomach wasn't fat I would likely decide that my nose is crooked or that my feet are too large or some other damn thing. My nose might be a bit crooked, but who cares? My feet are what they are. And for the moment, my stomach is larger than I would like, but none of these things has to define me unless I make that choice.

All of this sounds obvious as I type it and probably seems even more obvious to you reading it, but in the moment on the scale I invariably forget all of this and become that number on the scale. So too when I lose myself to anxiety, when I fail at a task, when I'm struggling with something. Suddenly I'm no longer a smart, thoughtful, healthy, happy guy. I'm a stupid, idiotic, fat, depressed little boy. It's not the best of feelings.

It's easy to focus on the fat and not be thrilled about the heart rate. I ran a steady 45 heart rate yesterday sitting in a doctor's office after taking the last three weeks off of running and generally not taking care of myself. That's wonderful. That's fantastic. But I chalk that up to luck and then right it off. Here's the thing: even if was genetic luck that gifted me this heart, why not savor it? I mean, Clooney's good looks are pretty much the result of a genetic lottery and I don't begrudge him that. (I don't begrudge Clooney anything as my wife would not take kindly to that.)

I'm reminded here too of the discussion my therapist and I had on Tuesday in which she tried to help me understand acceptance. When I stand on the scale and curse the numbers and myself I'm fighting against something. That fight, while celebrated in our culture, does me no good whatsoever. My therapist would likely suggest that I accept who I am in that moment and proceed from there.

But isn't that just giving up? I wonder.

No, it's not a surrender. It's an acknowledgement of the way things are. Things begin from there and, not to sound too cheesy, anything is possible from there.

A few months back I was cursing myself for not having written these blog entries. I was telling myself that I was a bad person for not following through. That dug the hole deeper. Somewhere along the way I said aloud, "I feel like I don't have a 750-word essay in me and worry that I might not ever find one again." Saying it, accepting the situation, took me to a new place from which it was quite natural, only days later, to write on.