I couldn't believe it. I gained nearly 20 pounds since I returned to the United States six months ago. While in Peru, I smugly thought I wouldn't be one of those people. Yet, as I stood on a scale at a recent medical appointment, I was slapped in face with cold, hard evidence to the contrary. I stared at the scale's number, and my heart sank. I was immediately disappointed in myself.
My sporadic or half-hearted attempts for exercise and healthy eating hadn't proven effective. Sure, my lifestyle is different. I don't walk as as my main source of transportation. My diet isn't the same. I knew I was gaining weight. I chose to ignore it, like an ostrich with its head buried in the sand. It took a sobering visit on that metal scale to be confronted with just how much weight I had gained.
A hopeless wave of depression washed over me. At the same time, other difficult experiences were occurring in all aspects of my life. I felt the very bitter sting of failure. It then spread like a paralyzing lethargy through my body and spirit. Bitterness, disappointment, and failure tainted my thoughts, circling and looming around my soul and body, like dark, gray clouds.
Days passed, and the nagging internal attacks continued.
"You failed. You're fat. You're ugly. You're lazy," The voices taunted, their voices worn and thin on the popular cassette tapes of my mind.
The tape changed to a much darker, and louder message:
"You're a failure. You can't change. Give up. You're not worth it."
That tape has had a lot of airplay in my mind during the course of my life. It's a hard message to ignore when I look at the sum of my life.
The messages have become comfortable and believable, when faced with the hard evidence of continual heartache and disappointment.
I try to change the tapes, but sometimes it is overwhelming. I want to believe in second chances for myself, but the voices argue back:
"There are no second chances for you. It's impossible."
The old cliche of "You haven't failed until you give up," floated
through my mind, and I figured it was time to accept failure and give
up. I would never be happy.
Then suddenly, and recently, there was an abrupt and unexpected switch in the broadcast in my mind.
A new message was starting to play, one I hadn't heard very often, almost new to me:
"You have not failed. You do get second, third, even fourth chances to start your life over."
It was a refreshing and unexpected change in my mind's radio.
My fate is not cast in stone. I am not mired to my past experiences, decisions, or choices. Yes, I made some poor choices in my past. I have endured painful experiences. Yet, I do not have to be a slave to my past. I don't have to let my past choices or experiences forever color and alter my future.
I can change. I can start over. I felt empowered and energized. Yes! I can change. I took ownership of myself instead of moping about the failure, I accepted responsibility for my choices. Yes, I have gained weight, but I can get back on track, and change that - if I choose. I felt ownership of my life instead of victimhood.
I started over. I've set an exercise plan. I've bundled up to go running and walking. I may look like a fool in my workout gear: a brown knitted owl hat, fuzzy black and gray scarf, zebra mittens, black wool coat, and blue pants that I have to yank up. I probably look like a goof as I run, but it makes me feel alive. Instead of just lying in bed, as tempting as it is, I have forced myself to get up and take charge. I'm trying to take control over myself, instead of letting my past choices weigh me down from taking action.
The same is true with my very tender heart. It's been nearly six years since that tear-stained day that left me walking out of the courthouse, with official papers in my hands, that declared I was single again.
I honestly believe sometimes (okay, most of the time), that I am not worthy or deserving of a second chance for a successful relationship. I had my chance. It crumbled apart. Sometimes, it feels like letter "D" is so deeply burned into the fleshy tablets of my heart, that nobody - myself included - can see beyond that. Maybe the "D" stands for divorced, damaged, or even dammed - depending on who you ask. Over the course of the past several years, my attempts to start over haven't worked out yet. More heartbreak, disappointment, and rejection have tried to crush my battered soul.
However, as the new message plays in my mind, I am starting to have faith that there isn't just a one-night only opportunity for an eternal relationship. I have to believe that at some point in my mortal or even eternal journey, there will be a second chance for lasting love.
Every day is a chance to start over. We can renew our commitments, our resolve, our faith, and our hope. It really is a daily decision. Life is just a continual series of daily choices that add up. And, just because I slipped backwards one day, doesn't mean I'm doomed forever. I start over again the next day. Even though I have to live with consequences or outcomes, I can still chose to start over. I can change the channel when the increasingly loud and destructive tapes slip into the airplay of my mind.
Even if I just keep a small glimmer of hope, I haven't failed. That expression about failing really is true. Failure only happens when you stop trying. So, I keep going, I keep trying, and I keep hoping.
As a wise person once said, we are not sent here to fail. We are sent here to learn and to endure. We can be made whole again. We can start over when we are ready, and as often as we need.
Happiness isn't a limited-time, today-only special served up by a sporadic deity. I have to take chances, risks, and keep trying, even when everything seems to conspire against me. That's why I keep going - even when life seems impossible. I can't quit. I can't give up. I can't lose. I may stay "plump," and single, but I can still be happy and find joy in
life. Joy for me might even be defined as something as simple as swinging at the
park in the cold winter air.
Life is really about second chances. Maybe, it's even about as many second chances as we need.