Yesterday I finished reading The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. It got me thinking. The story, basically, is about an extremely dysfunctional family: parents who are unfit to parent, and their kids who could have followed in their depressing legacy of alcoholism, poverty, and hopelessness, but instead rose up and built adult lives of achievement and financial security.
I adore stories of people over-coming the odds. I always root for the underdog. I am utterly captivated and fascinated by the process whereby one decides to push past the barriers and accomplish the seemingly impossible. I am totally obsessed with it, if you want to know the truth.
Lucky for me, it’s also my job.
Day after day, I meet women who have been trying all of their lives to reduce their size and become the slim woman they dream of. Not just slim of course, but also at peace with food, no longer hungry, no longer obsessed, no longer enslaved by cycles of starving and binging. These women have been working on this ONE unaccomplished goal for 15, 20, 40 or even 50 years. They have met with so much other achievement in life – phenomenal careers, the raising of amazing children, over-coming heartbreak, disease, financial crumble – and yet this one goal of SLIM has never been reached. Or, even sadder, it has been reached briefly and then lost again. Those woman forever cling to the memories of that brief shining moment when they were who they always wanted to be.
By the time they come to me, most women have usually tried a million diets and workout plans, some sensible, some crazy, each one going to be THE THING that will finally bring them what they want.
And it’s not like they didn’t try! Holy cow, these are the strongest, bravest, most tenacious and stubborn women you will ever meet! They work their asses off in pursuit of this one single all-consuming goal. But it evades them time after time.
I often hear them say “I am so frustrated by this, I could just scream!” or “I just do not have the strength to give this one more try.”
I get it. I know this pain too. I have been there too. I screamed and cried and pounded my fists and pleaded with The Creator to please let me have this one thing I wanted so badly from the time I was 16 years old and chubbier than the rest of the girls.
And one day, seemingly out of the blue, I turned it around for myself. One day “blammo” it all became clear and all I had to do was walk the walk. Everything else fell away and step by step I walked all the way to my goal and stayed there.
But why? What made me have “blammo” and why don’t some other people have it? Why do some of my clients sit across from me and I watch quite literally as their entire expression changes and they take this big deep breath and say “I get it. I’m going to be OK now” and suddenly all the power they were using on the “battle” gets channeled into the success? Yet others sadly go on struggling and fighting and doing the one-step-forward-one-step-back dance?
I wish I knew. If I knew the answer to this question, I would bestow it on the world for all to share. I study the question constantly. I read book after book on the psychology of achievement and motivation, I pick the brains of my clients who have gotten it. I ask “What was it that finally got through to you?” and they all say “I don’t know.” which is what I say too.
For a long time, I was obsessed with survival literature. You know, stories of the folks who get lost in the wilderness or in a disaster and some live and some die. In the fascinating book Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why by Laurence Gonzales, the author puts forth that there is some internal survival mechanism that only about 10% of the population seem to possess. They do not see Death as an Option.
They do not see Death as an Option.
I did not see Fat as an Option.
I looked in the mirror and said “NO! This isn’t me. This is not my life and I don’t care how hard I have to work and how long it might take, I will never, ever, EVER give up, give in, or accept a different conclusion than the one I seek.”
When the chips are down. When it feels as though the entire world is against you. When you have failed a billion trillion times. When you think you have no strength left. When you feel so humiliated you can’t even look yourself in the eye. When you are lost at sea in a tiny life boat. Will you be the one to accept the fate that seems inevitable? Or will you be the one to scrape your own guts off the pavement, stand up and say “NO, I am not finished yet.”