Was Blind But Now I See

New converts are the most fervent believers. And the most obnoxious to non-believers. This is true for new converts to anything. It doesn’t matter if they are new Christians or new Atheists, new CrossFit adherents or new Sherlock viewers, new budgeters or new iPhone purchasers. If they have recently fallen in love with some new thing that has rocked their world, they desperately want you to as well.

It’s like John Newton wrote in “Amazing Grace”:

I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.

New converts’ eyes have been opened to what they were missing and they can’t believe that you are still missing out too.  Try to extend a little grace while they wax poetic. Please? Because… I’m about to engage in a bit of that myself.

An analogy. I got glasses for the first time right before Christmas. I stuck them on my face and wore them all day long. We had some friends and family over that day who (ironically) all wear glasses. Every single one of them. Near the end of the day, I took off my glasses. And was blown away. I couldn’t believe it. I was blind!

Not quite, but it felt like it. My vision, as far as I was concerned, had been fine. For the last several years, my right eye was 20/20 and my left about 20/40. The left was slipping and this most recent exam, the nurse was generous to call it 20/50. Not bad – especially not compared to the other folks at my dinner table that day. But worthy of correction (especially if I were to have any hope of renewing my driver’s license).

Still, nothing had looked blurry or dark before. Nothing was difficult to read. All was right with the world. Until I spent a day wearing those glasses. Then a return to my old view was disturbing. So, first off, I wasn’t seeing nearly as well as I thought I was. And second, my eyes were having to work so incredibly hard to see what I was seeing.

That’s the way it is with lifestyle changes too. You tend to not realize how bad you have it until that “have” becomes a “had”. That happened with us both with finances and fitness. We knew we had problems but we didn’t know a) how bad it was and b) how much it was affecting us. Now we do.

My husband is a big man. He’s about 6’2″ tall and has weighed between 220 and 270 pounds for the last 15 years or so – most of that closer to the heavier end. He’s strong though – lean muscular legs and thick arms. All muscle. Or so we thought. Then he started losing weight. Now I see what lean muscular legs actually look like. And now I know that there actually was a pretty good layer of fat over those biceps.

The doctor even tried to cut him some slack as a big guy. She still does. She claims it’s not reasonable to expect him to get down into the healthy BMI range. She was going to be happy at 240 and ecstatic at 220. Now he’s targeting 200 for the end of the year. We formed our opinions on how he looked before. Now we see a different future.

We’ve also learned he’s not nearly as warm-natured as we thought. He still is, but now he gets cold. He’s wearing a sleep shirt to bed and bundling up with a heavy coat and scarf when he goes out. He lost all his insulation. And he’s ok with that. The trade-off has been worth it.

We are both in better shape now. We can see the definition in our muscles. We don’t tire as easily. Even little things – like rising from the toilet. I can hover as long as I need to in order to take care of toilet paper duty. If I forget something in my car, I can literally run out to it and not be out of breath.

My brother, in response to a medical emergency, recently quit drinking soft drinks. He just commented to me how much better he feels. And how he didn’t even realize how bad he felt before.

You see, that’s the key. I look around and I just want to scream to everyone I see: YOU COULD FEEL SO MUCH BETTER THAN YOU DO RIGHT NOW!! But, of course, I don’t. I just watch them chug their soft drink, or listen to them breathe heavily at their desk several minutes after climbing the stairs, or watch them rock back and forth in order to lift their legs to walk, or watch them lumber over to the handicap ramp because the two steps directly in front of them are insurmountable. I’ve even watched a couple of people lean against the wall and take a break during their walk in from the parking lot at work.

I’m looking at them differently now. It’s not a position of judgement and I sincerely hope it doesn’t sound like one. It’s not quite a position of pity either. I just look at them and know that I’ve discovered a secret that they haven’t yet. And I feel a little sad for them. Because while many of them are much worse off than I’ve ever been, I still know part of their problem because I’ve been there too. They just don’t know how bad they feel nor how much better they could feel if they made some changes.

My conversation with my brother yesterday caused me to turn that sad look back on myself. I might feel better than I used to but I bet I still don’t feel as good as I could. I already stopped drinking sodas for the most part, but now I’m planning to replace my caffeinated, sugar-substitute, chemical laced flavored water with simple black tea. I can’t (yet) get through my workday without caffeine, but I’m curious to see how much better I’ll feel without the junk I used to use.

I can’t tell you what in your life is keeping you from feeling better. But I can tell you that it’s there. I hope you’ll take some time this year to look for it.

2014: Our Year In Review

Looking back, I think 2014 was a pivotal year for my husband and me. It didn’t start out all that special but by mid year, big changes were afoot. Which is an interesting point, by the way. We like to break up our world according to the calendar year but life doesn’t really care about our artificial time boundaries. It just rolls along. No need to wait for a New Year to make some positive resolutions for your life.

One seemingly minor change has to do with my appearance. In August, I decided on a whim to cut my long straight hair into a spiky little pixy cut. This was remarkable for two reasons. First, I don’t do anything on a whim. Spontaneous is not a word that anyone would put anywhere on a list of words to describe me. Second, my hair has been the same for most of my 40 years on the planet. I’m not big on change.

But the haircut did more than just update my hairstyle. It caused a total makeover in appearance, personality, and confidence. I love how I look now. I wear earrings – because, hey! You can see them! Even big dangly ones. I dress in nicer clothes. I love how my new glasses complement my look. I smile instead of frown when I look in the mirror. I love myself.

Related to appearance and self love is our new focus on health and exercise. My husband wants us to hike “rim to rim” at Grand Canyon National Park in 2016. That’s a brutally ambitious 22 mile, 1 day hike, some rest, and then a return hike a couple days later.

We both have the knowledge and experience to do this safely but we also both know we aren’t in good enough shape. Yet. The exercising began in earnest in July or August. It ramped up even more in the Fall.

It’s grown to a team activity. We rise early every morning and workout: one on the treadmill, the other on the bike. We do sit-ups and push-ups together. We’ve recently added squats.

In early November, an attempt to do 4 sit-ups resulted in muscles so sore, I had to rest a week before trying again. Now, I do over 50 and only struggle near the end… and without lingering soreness after! My husband has manifested the greatest improvements. While I’m still waiting to see the results on the scales, he has shed over 25 pounds and looks great.

Exercising has become a priority. We make it happen. Together.

The final groundbreaking development in 2014 was the overhaul of our finances. We’ve now been living on a budget for 6 months and we are both addicted to how well this works. We’ve paid off both vehicles, created a budget spreadsheet that allows us to tailor our budget exactly as we want it, allocated savings categories for upcoming vacations and big ticket items, mastered usage of a joint app on our phones to track expenses against the budget, and learned how to work together.

That’s been the greatest success. We work together better. We are more patient with each other. We listen. Now, don’t get me wrong. We still duke it out from time to time (figuratively). We still lose our cool. But for the most part, we both want to make it work and so we work.

Who knew that 40 was the age at which we’d finally grow up? I couldn’t be happier with my husband, my life, and myself. And I’m excited about where 2015 is going to take us.