Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Shame and Transformation

Shame shook me awake and began my metamorphosis. I was ashamed that it took me 20 years to find the courage to ask a girl out (especially when I had friends lose their virginity at 13 or 14). I was ashamed that I was dumped the very next day with the worst of phrases, "Let's just be friends." I couldn't handle the embarassment, the frigid waters of reality drowning me. I remember clutching my chest and hyperventilating because the thought made it hard to breathe at times. I remember randomly assaulting concrete walls in stairwells because the rage suddenly came upon me.

Shame sent me down this road. I'm grateful. I'm not looking back. I've said that many times. I'm writing today because I've never written about how shame can stop a transformation in process or even abort one in the womb.

It's something I've seen in the eyes of so many people who have come to me and asked for help as they're getting started.

"I want to lose weight, but my fat jiggles when I do anything."
"I'm so slow at running. I get tired so quickly."
"My friends have seen me fail so many times. I don't want to keep embarassing myself."

There's no diet or exercise that will solve these problems. These issues must be tackled first. Insanity or P90X, kettlebells, ICT, HIIT, swimming, running, bodybuilding, Crossfit, ghetto fitness, Planet Fitness, anything more honest than the Shakerweight will get them fit and looking good sooner or later. The plan that they choose means little in the long run. The commitment and dedication to their goal means everything in the short and long run. I've seen videos of people doing amazing things with poor planning. I've never seen anyone do anything amazing and admirable without first having something extraordinary in their spirit first.

There's this story I keep telling - please bear with me if you've read many of my blog entries - but I keep telling it because of how crucial a role it played in my transformation. When I was early in my transformation, at a chunky 260, two brothers wanted to test out my running and challenged me to a race. 33rd St. by the NYU medical center down to the Williamsburg bridge and back up. They were athletic. Lithe, basketball playing types and I was still fat. The morning of the race, I tried to convince them to do a weightlifting test. I knew I could win there at least.

As we started, the two brothers took off and quickly left me in the dust. I couldn't see them at all two minutes into the race. This was going to be humiliating. Even more humiliating, wrinkly grandfathers and grandmothers were passing me by. Runners usually mark a target up ahead and use that person as a goalpost to pull themselves further. I lost all my targets. Each one I picked out pulled further and further away. I felt my legs drag.

But twenty minutes into the race, I found both of the brothers. Dry-heaving and panting on a park bench, they had burnt each other out. They had completely discounted the fat kid in basketball shorts. I wonder what they might've said had they the breath to speak back then. I ended up winning the race by a half hour margin.

That contest carved in me a powerful lesson that day. It's a lesson that has continued driving deeper and deeper into my soul. Other people's embarassment might hurt but that pain pales in comparison to the pain of giving up. The choices we make once enable us to make it more easily the next time. Giving up becomes a habit of giving up, a lifestyle of surrender, a deep-seated belief in the inevitability of despair and failure. Honestly, it might be better to die than to hold that belief truly.

But just as giving up becomes a habit, a lifestyle, a worldview, so does perseverance. Hush the critics in your life and press on despite their nay-saying. Win or fail, you've done it once. Do it again. And again. And again. As many times as it takes for you to develop a worldview, a belief that your opinion and your estimation of your life matters more than the screams of the haters, the vampires, the ones you indict with your courage and passion.

But the key is to start. Nothing will ever happen, nothing will ever change if you don't start.

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