Watching a dearly beloved little sister of mine finish her first road race this morning reminded me of my own rebirth through fitness.
The first true heartbreak I ever had in my life. Emotional devastation, suicidal ideation, blind, hot, fury, dark, drowning, sorrow... I experienced premature enlightenment. In the hatred I felt towards my own life, I realized what might be the most valuable lesson I've ever learned: I love my life. It mattered to me. It was worthwhile to me. Each successive heartbreak in my life has driven this truth deeper and deeper into my bones. I. Love. My. Life.
The hatred I felt was absolutely appropriate. My life, the life I had lived, the life that we can speak of in the present tense, did not deserve love, admiration, respect. It was absolutely pathetic, worthless sewage that you wish you could flush away with a lever and never set your eyes upon again, an aberration, abortion, abomination. That life I hated. But the life in the present tense, I loved. By using the word love, I mean to use it in the strong-sense of a choice, an action, a continued matter of will and decision and not in the weak-sense of an emotional response. I loved my life. It wasn't worth loving by any means, but I loved it, sought it's good and would fight to preserve it.
In this narrow space, the contradiction could live. I hated my life. I wanted to commit suicide, end it, destroy it, abolish it from reality. I loved my life. I wanted to live, to find joy, to see what everyone was smiling about.
So I did both. I've often written about, here and elsewhere, the promise I made to myself. I'd change my life or I'd end my life. Little did I know that I changed my life by ending it and ended it by changing it. I was 320 lbs. Once I went down, I never went back up past 240 and now usually live at 220. Contrast this to the endless string of failures and rebounds that people talk about when they talk about 'dieting'. Dieting, on a long enough time-line, will always fail. I didn't fail because I didn't diet. I changed. That Stanley you knew isn't around anymore. Don't look for him. I killed him and left his corpse in plain sight.
You want Stanley? Here I am. I tore my life apart and built it back one piece at a time. Throw away the parts that I didn't need, put in some new pieces that should've been there from the start. When we rebuild our lives, the easiest thing to do in the world, the best thing you can do for yourself, is to start with your body. Your body will listen to you. Anyone, and I mean anyone, in the world can build muscle, lose fat.
You. Can. Change.
This is the first truth I learned. This is the truth I hold onto more tightly than anything else in the world.
Change is possible.
My prayer is that I never find perfection, never find completeness, never be OK with myself. My greatest joy comes from changing myself. Forget that nonsense you drank in all your life from soft, mushy grade school teachers. You're not special. You're not OK as you are. You're so far away from what you could be. Doesn't that break your heart? The way you are now, as much as you've learned, as much you've experienced, loved, sorrowed, felt, thought... as far as you've climbed, pursued, dreamed, imagined, are you OK with life just this far? That's why I didn't commit suicide 6 years ago. I thought about ending my life right there. I can't end on that note. I could never end on that note. Stanley Lee has more in him than that, and every, every year of my life has proved me right. 27 better than 26, 26 better than 25 and so on down the line. Change is possible.
Change is not only possible. It's our lifeboat, our hope, goal and dream. Because of change, of transience, of temporary states, there aren't any unclimbable mountains, unassailable fortresses. The realm of possibility blossoms, thousand-petaled lotus of enlightenment.
And for me it began with heartbreak, with fitness and has now become the first step on a road that I hope stretches forever.