I just gawked at one of those celebrity articles featuring how “hot” certain actors were back in the day and then ‘look at them now.’ As I peered curiously at visions of youth lost and it’s companion weight gain, I felt sort of sad. Not sad because I now face both of those intruders, but rather in light of our (1st world) societal expectations about how we ought to look. I suppose it’s a cruelty that comes with getting older as youth requires little to no discipline at all. But the more pervasive cruelty is found in how we begin to view ourselves. And because of the pressure we feel to “look” a certain way, we either partake in the endless diet or succumb to the weight making us less and less recognizable as the years roll by. This, my friends, is a metaphor for life.
I think if we’re honest, we want to lose weight because we want to look good. We want to feel good. We want things to work like they used to work. In short, we want to be young again. But was the time of our youth really that fantastic? We were either awkward or nervous or shy. We were besieged with self-doubt. When we actually dared to give it thought, we wondered what we would do for a living and when we had to “settle down.” We lived for the day when we had it all and could do whatever we wanted. Sure we always looked good in a bathing suit, but inside it wasn’t all that swell .
Fast forward 30 years and many of those questions have all been answered for us. We may still be awkward, but we’re too tired to give a shit. We’re more sure than we ever were before. But, are we so sure? Do we know what we think we know or have we just succumbed to the game? Then, after our surrender we started getting fat; not only in our bathing suits but more importantly in our minds. We started just letting stuff go. We figured that if we couldn’t have it all like we dreamed in times past, the least we could do was eat some tasty foods, drink some wine and veg out on the couch. We now have the resources to gorge ourselves night and day and the damn, quick fix, unhealthy foods seem to taste the best!
In our youth we had a cosmic pass. We didn’t have responsibilities because we weren’t yet capable of responsibilities. Mom and Dad took care of that. Our job was just to communicate our needs and find the fun. Someone else took care of the hard parts. But, the grand design of things was that as we learned and grew we were supposed to transfer that responsibility on to God. The cycle was supposed to continue. God promised to meet our every need and we were supposed to find the fun. Sure we had work to do but it was no different from the requirement to mow the lawn. But, because we didn’t know that we took it all upon ourselves and life started to be a real drag. We just got so tired. And to add insult to injury we started gaining weight while simultaneously watching our bodies start to droop. Our selfies sucked because we always forgot to wake up our tired faces. (smile)
One day it dawned us that we look nothing like we used to look. The ever angular face from our younger years suddenly became rounded and our chin began to double itself. We grew bellies and man boobs. We peered into the mirror and saw deep wrinkles from years of scowling and frowning. But somewhere in there hiding is that kid, full of youthful beauty and plans and dreams and hope. We recognize that we’ve done it to ourselves. Our complacency and fatigue have led to a lack of control. We just let things go. And beyond that we failed to let go of the things we needed to let go of which explains that look on our faces.
Momentarily awakened, we get back on the endless diet. We decide to take charge of ourselves once again. We begin to think about what we are thinking about and reign ourselves in. And it feels good. Controlling ourselves feels damn good and the side benefit is that we start to lose weight. But, life marches on and we start to succumb to the same bad habits that put us there in the first place and so we either begin a new diet or get back on track with our existing diet. That frustrating yet simple, oft-repeated process, is a metaphor for life. We adults are supposed to control ourselves. Mom and Dad aren’t around to deny us the 4th cookie. In fact, they aren’t around to stop us from doing anything that brings us harm. We’re supposed to do it ourselves with God’s help.
So how can this age-old yo-yo process represent life? Those inner urgings; that persistent inkling that we’ve let something go; the dissatisfaction we feel inside is there because we haven’t yet learned the lesson. Life isn’t about looking good in a bikini, it’s about gaining mastery over our biggest opponent, ourselves! It’s not something we do for a short period of time to reach a destination. It’s someone we become from faithful effort to get up, show up and win. We’ve all surrendered and given in at times, sometimes for years… We’ve all succumbed to the lure of the quick fix and instant success. But neither of those ends of the spectrum represent real life. Real, satisfied, fulfilled life comes from gaining mastery over ourselves. Success is found in a million little choices adding up to a blessed life. Instead of being frustrated with ourselves and being critical of ourselves we need to uncover that happy kid inside and make the daily decision to better ourselves, be patient with ourselves and finally recover ourselves. Instead of dismissing our private thoughts as foolish or simple, we must listen to what they’re telling us and take the necessary action. Oh, how grand we feel when we finally take some action!
When I look at myself in the mirror, I see my furrowed brow, my thinning hair and that belly bulge. I see how much that guy has changed over the years. But, I also see, deeply carved in the sides of my eyes, etched lines that came from a hundred thousand smiles. I see eyes that have dimmed somewhat over time, but still carry all of the love, compassion and care that can only come from a lifetime of experiences. No-one is going to put me on a magazine cover anymore, but they will listen to what I have to say! Only time and experience can get you to that place, and this life exists for you to gain mastery in the journey.
Just some good thoughts…