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Envision Your Path

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Thursday, August 20, 2020

My two older children are rather obsessed with their age. They think that at age 31 (son) and 29 (daughter), the course of their life has been set in stone. My son believes he is stuck at a desk in a basement office at a famous, prestigious corporation that many people look up to but which he strongly dislikes. My daughter, though multi-talented in music and art, is stuck in her room all day writing songs that she doesn't have the confidence to promote. I ask them, "Why do you think you have to stay in this miserable state of mind? You are free. You can do anything you want. You can quit your job and travel the world on a shoestring until you figure out what to do next. You can gather up the courage to send in your songs, steel yourself for rejection, and then try again."

When you pinpoint your mission, a path will open up before you. I've believed this for a long time, but the problem is that while I've spouted this philosophy off to my children, I haven't applied it to myself, and my children therefore have not seen a good example of how dreams and goals can take shape and be realized. Talking is different from doing, so in order to help my children, I have come to understand that I must lead by example. Even when your children are all "grown up" and you swear you're going to retire from the job of being a mother, your job does not end, and this revelation (obvious to most) has recently been guiding me toward big change. I am not being self-denigrating when I say how badly I need to change my very flawed self. I am just describing an epiphany, a joyful but shocking awakening from a long sleep when my real self had been so deeply buried that I had given up hope without even knowing it.

For example, the other day, I heard my husband and daughter having a conversation in Japanese, and I kept interrupting, "What does that mean? Could you translate that?" And then I thought to myself I have been in Japan for thirty-four years. Thirty-four years! Why have I not learned Japanese well enough to talk about things beyond the weather, people's behavior on the train, and how expensive lettuce is at the moment? When I was in university, I was focused, intense, willing to work hard and learn new things. Granted, I was often motivated only by the desire to get good grades and for people to call me smart, but in general, I had a big yearning for knowledge. What in the world dampened my spirit and stole away my confidence? I'd like to know, but instead of wasting time figuring out all the reasons I'm just a shadow of my former self, I vow to study Japanese intensively at least two hours every day. Japanese is not easy. It's not like learning French or Spanish, which resemble English so much more closely and were easy to me in school (but don't speak to me in those languages now). To read Japanese competently, you need to know about 2000 Chinese characters. When I first came to Japan, I learned a lot of characters and used to write post cards to my Japanese friends. I have lost my skills and am now almost illiterate. I do not like my incompetence, but I have control over it and will zap it. I've wasted time, but it's not too late.

There are several other areas of my life where I used to strive for excellence but no longer do, but today I'll mention just one more, which I think is relevant to a lot of people here on SparkPeople. Again, I want to ask why did this happen? Why do I find myself more than fifty pounds overweight? My twenty-year-old self would find this horrifying, but at least on the surface it seems somewhere along the way my own obesity became somehow acceptable to me. For a very long time, I continued to work out even though I was overweight. I did exercise videos (loved the Firm videos in the 90s and early 00s), walked miles every day, joined sports clubs, did diet programs, and cared about fashion. The weight crept up, but at twenty pounds overweight and then thirty pounds overweight, I still felt good, my muscles were discernible, and I kept exercising. And then I reached a tipping point some time in the past five years when my joints began to hurt more than they had before. I exercised through that, and then it got more painful, and then I didn't exercise as much, and then I used pain as an excuse not to exercise, and then I lost the muscle tone I had had even when I was overweight, and my clothes started not fitting, and that made me feel worse, so at night I would eat and drink beer to assuage the emotional pain of letting myself go, and it didn't matter usually because my family loves me and doesn't nag me about my weight, Japanese doctors were too polite to mention it, and in my job as an English teacher to Japanese company employees, the only time I felt self-conscious about it was at the first class meeting, when even though of course the students never commented on my weight or indicated that they noticed it at all, I felt that in their minds I fit into the category of fat. That was a problem I dealt with in flashes in my mind but I squashed those thoughts by doing what I thought was a really good job of making sure my students learned a lot of English in my class. I worked so hard--to teach with all my heart and to forget that deep down I do not like being obese.

My main reason for not liking obesity at the moment is that it has suddenly greatly exacerbated my knee pain and made the prospect of ending up in a wheelchair very likely. I do not like the way it takes me about thirty seconds to wait for the excruciating pain to subside when getting out of the driver's seat in the car, before I can walk across the parking lot to the store. I do not like the way my knees hurt in the middle of the night and make it an ordeal to change positions. I know I face a knee replacement or two and feel optimistic this will restore my mobility, but I can't help regretting letting myself get so overweight that the problem is likely much worse than it would have been otherwise.

And--let's be honest--almost everyone who is overweight would prefer not to be. It's politically incorrect to say this, but I am just speaking what I think is the truth. I would prefer to be in the normal weight range not only for health reasons but also because I think I look better--to others and to myself. Don't you want your own family members to look as clean, neat, healthy, and attractive as they can? We should want this for ourselves, too. I want to stop avoiding looking into storefront windows, stop asking that when my children take photos of me they show only my face, stop having too small a choice of what to wear when getting ready for work because I am always planning to lose weight and fit into smaller clothes and am therefore reluctant to buy clothes in my present size. If you don't feel you look good, your life will be limited, not necessarily by others--who may judge you or not notice or care whether you are obese--but by yourself, who will not be able completely to let you forget that you are dissatisfied and who will make sure you are always, on some level, aware of your excess weight.

So I'm tracking. Tracking is a reminder three times a day of a reality I've tried too long to ignore--I'm overweight, I'm in pain, and I'm not happy with the way I look. Tracking is also a reminder that we can do things to take care of ourselves and to effect change. I've been overweight and have ignored reality for a very long time, but I know there is a way to a happier state.

Envision the path and keep on walking.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • ACCEPTHECHLNGE
    Carolyn, I should have known that you would respond to my Blog. I responded on your main page, but could not post, as it was considered 'private'. So, here I am. I have missed you and for some reason thought about you a lot these last couple of weeks. Your Blog talks to all of us. After knee replacement, last year, I lost a lot of weight, because I could not tolerate the painkillers given to me. I decided to live without them and had many sleepless nights, and lost 15#. I regained some of it back, but am still down to a size 8 or 10. My weight loss journey started 50# ago, after the birth of my second son, and he is 38 now! I am glad that I never gave up, however, but it was a long journey. I still watch what I eat, but started to follow the intermittent diet, like VERNAJ3. I no longer eat after 3:00 PM. If I feel like snacking later in the evening, it is just a piece of fruit. It's amazing how fast you can get used to this lifestyle. Having family, like you, might be a little bit more difficult. But, you are a strong individual and I know you will find a way. I will try to write to you while I am recuperating from my newest hip replacement, which will take place this coming Tuesday. I will be going in, in the morning, and send home in the afternoon. Take care. You will be in my thoughts and prayers. So happy that you will start teaching again.
    8 days ago
  • DONNALEE-53
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    16 days ago
  • LONGLEANNLANKY
    Oh yes to all.
    I’ve just returned to Sparking, it’s been a long time I’ve been away, so much change and I knew what I was missing and it includes tracking
    23 days ago
  • BEESHELL8
    Ah Carolyn! What a masterpiece in truth, honesty, and vulnerability. And in beautiful writing. I love love your writing and your thoughts. Someone else said, you clearly articulated what many of us think and are feeling, us women over 50. Hugs and love to you. Looking forward to hearing more about walk down the path. emoticon emoticon
    26 days ago
  • PRIMALPROGRESS
    What a fantastic blog post. So glad I stumbled upon it.
    26 days ago
  • CRADLEY
    Your blog really reasonated with me. I've been very lax lately - not logging in or tracking my food. It's time to stop ignoring the scale that has been steadily creeping up or looking at the clothes that don't fit anymore. Move it or lose it!! It's our time!! emoticon
    36 days ago
  • CARDIOQUEEN82
    I would love to learn Japanese! I can relate with so many of your struggles, with the aches and pains, and trying to better yourself through exercise but it being painful and discouraging to do so. I hope you can find the strength and endurance to make it through and strongly suggest if you have access to a pool that you do some water aerobics which are must easier on your joints (I had to do this the last time my ankle/knee problems derailed me). Love ya, lady. Keep on trudging. I can't wait to learn your new Japanese words.
    38 days ago
  • OSHEONA
    emoticon emoticon blog! I wish you the very best in learning more Japanese and in losing weight! You will be so proud of yourself, with every milestone you make!!! emoticon
    48 days ago
  • KRISUA
    You gave me so much to think about.
    49 days ago
  • QOALESLEY_62
    Everything you said, is me to a T. I ask, when did this happen all the time. Thank you for posting this. It's time to take action! emoticon emoticon
    50 days ago
  • TORTOISE110
    I so agree. It always comes back to the reality of tracking. Bravo!
    51 days ago
  • LAURIESPENCER
    You put into words so beautifully what I think many of us can relate to, at least I know I can. Reading your post certainly helps puts things into perspective.
    51 days ago
  • TOMATOCAFEGAL
    I am so much of the same thought as you over my journey.
    52 days ago
  • DEBVNE
    Oh sweet Carolyn, I am late to the party...your blog. I love your musings, your keen mind, your kind heart, your clear understanding of your rabbit holes in life. The grace you’re willing to extend to yourself and others is a gift. Most importantly, I adore that you’re unwilling to settle or remain where you are. It never ceases to amaze me that epiphanies hit us at the most unusual or unexpected times.

    Momming only ends after the last breath leaves our body. We try, not easy. Adult children present entirely different stressors, problems, and joy! Lordy, your crew have barely begun living. Clearly they’re in their own way. Leading by example is a powerful way to help others learn. You goOooOoo girl, one never knows who’s watching. At the end of the day, we’re only responsible for ourselves. Sigh.

    Tracking is a win for me...especially when I use the date to see trends, patterns, you name it. Extra poundage is a heavy load mentally, physically, spiritually. A physical therapist once stressed to me that motion is the lotion for our joints. They were made to move. Sitting wrecks havoc. The content of the calories we eat definitely has a starring role in how we feel and move. Ask me how I know...

    You’re writing some new chapters in your story, you’re an amazing writer...better, healthier, happier days ahead. Be well, sweet friend...
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    53 days ago
  • LOSEDAPOUNDS
    Wonderful post! I can imagine Japanese is difficult to learn, but I bet you will do it with flying colors. I suspect a lot of young people feel the same way your son and daughter do with feeling stuck.

    For me with the whole weighloss and exercise thin, I still berate myself about things like the fact I haven't used weights in months and I rarely do exercise videos these days. All I do is walk, but I do it every day. I think what keeps me doing it every day is not berating myself that I must do it for my weight, but instead because i need it the way I need breakfast. The fresh air, nature and exercise feed my soul enough that I find pandemic life manageable. When I miss a daily walk, I start to get down.Sure I like the weight control benefits, but for me it's like taking an anti-depressant every day. It's the same with healthy eating. Yes, I slip, I eat too much, I overdo carbs, I sneak a treat, but those veggies keep me feeling sane-the more the better.
    53 days ago

    Comment edited on: 8/26/2020 9:47:02 PM
  • KEEPITUP4LIFE
    Tracking is a great start my dear friend. Acknowledging your need to lose weight in order to feel healthy and look good for yourself and your self confidence is also a great motivator.

    We have all got as story similar to yours and we are all fighting those demons with the help of Spark People and our SP friends who motivate and inspire us.
    You are not alone and I am so happy to hear that you are still among us at Spark People .

    I am always going to be here for you and I full heartedly support you in your quest to conquer the goals you set out for yourself.

    Hugs and friendship always
    Susan
    56 days ago
  • HEYRED221
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    56 days ago
  • KENDRACARROLL
    Isn't it just awful how much opportunity we squander over the course of our lives?
    Sometimes I'm sorry I can't go back and do things differently.
    I'm happy you wrote this blog, maybe it can be a springboard.
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    57 days ago
  • REGILIEH
    Carolyn, I think you should look back at when you decided to make Japan your country. I think that is when you gave up on yourself. Of course I could be very wrong but I would go back there. You never stop being a parent. My daughter now lives with me and has so many health issues that it is unbelievable, so I am a lot of the time taking care of her. Which I am pleased I can do. In the last 2 weeks she has had 13 medical appointments.

    I think you are a fabulous person with such a kind and caring persona. Take care of yourself!

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    57 days ago
  • PACEKA1
    Yes, we will always need to be our children's mothers. They are on their own journeys but they do need to see us living the things we say. My oldest daughter asked me the other day why I didn't worry more (since she suffers from anxiety). I told her that a long time ago I had to learn how to talk myself out of my worry! That is a lesson I've not forgotten.

    This is what I've learned about knees. After my one knee surgery I worked very hard to get stronger and it helped. The knee pain in the real knee subsided so much that I was even able to jump (hadn't done that for years). But when I get lax about my exercise the darn pains come back, even in the replacement knee. I get different pains in that leg but pain is pain. So I exercise - not as much as I did in the beginning but consistently! You can do this for yourself!
    57 days ago
  • _BABE_
    I have to smile that somewhere across the miles I have a spiritual twin. emoticon

    First things first in unpacking your always heartfelt blogs.

    You are a good mom. Instead of trying to brow beat your kids into some sort of responsibility you encourage them to find their path. I remember feeling my future and fate was sealed at 36. ***audible sigh***

    Now for the part I can truly identify with...when did I give up on the excellence that was to be my course in life. I can only think that with more years behind us than ahead of us we feel less inclined to go for it. If you google TrainwithJoan, you will discover my latest inspiration. At 70 she was facing an up in her meds, and a general lack of energy for life. I paraphrase the later part because she talks about a trigger temper and friends commenting on her change in personality which is a big symptom of depression. Anyway, the turn around in her life is mind blowing as witnessed in her Youtube videos and Instagram posts.

    Finally, the description of your knees is eerily identical to my situation. I have seen Orthopedic surgeons over the past 15 years but for one reason or another was declined. Back in the day it was my age, then deemed not bad enough and finally told I just need to lose weight. The last attempt in our socialized medicine state where I was told I just need to lose weight to get one is how the sliding scale of worthiness works today....will I be a successful recovery?

    My goal now is to lose the first 50 lbs ( there are a few sets to go) and see if it makes a difference and if it doesn't then I hope to have more of a case for replacement.

    I know I am droning on about myself but your blogs are every woman's testament to life over 50, being over weight and in my opinion over looked because of it.

    We deserve better!
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    57 days ago

    Comment edited on: 8/22/2020 4:32:29 PM
  • GOING-STRONG
    I so love your blogs Carolyn.... your raw honesty and feelings really resonate with me. We all have struggles in life and find various ways to cope; which aren't always healthy. Kudos to you my friend for being so strong and courageous. Hugs, Rhonda

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    58 days ago
  • GAILMARYFRANCES
    I am so grateful that WhiteCat19 told me about your blog! Been caught up entertaining some guests but would not have wanted to miss this.

    What a incredible testimony in so many ways, I understand the joy with the revelation but also a sense of responsibility in staying motivated to keep changing and growing. Your motivation has come from a deep place--love for your children, your husband and YOU.

    This is also a testament of the light that comes through the broken places. God is working strongly in your life. Will be praying for you as you continue to move forward.


    58 days ago
  • LIVINHEALTHY9
    Carolyn,
    Thank you for sharing another wonderful blog. You are so honest and speak from the heart.
    I think we all can relate to what you are saying in how it applies to our lives.

    You have envisioned your path and you will walk it. We will be right there along the way to encourage and cheer you on.

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    58 days ago
  • ANNIESADVENTURE
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    I hear you. I am with you. Tracking is a start.
    58 days ago
  • DESERTDREAMERS
    Well said - I have avoided mirrors. I could brush my teeth, checking to be sure I didn’t have toothpaste flecks, but not see my hair was a disaster. Have to admit, the old woman in the mirror is frightening - who is she?
    58 days ago
  • WHITECAT19
    There is absolutely nothing trite about this blog! You have very articulately and wisely expressed how many of us feel.

    I started working very hard to improve my body and my health at the beginning of Lent this year. Having the extra motivation of a spiritual fast helped to jump-start me. Then I just continued healthy eating habits going forward. Exercise has been more difficult, but I have improved from what I had been doing.

    Four more pounds, and I will be out of the obese category for the first time in many years. I will rejoice at being merely overweight! And I feel so much better!

    You can do this! And we will all support you!

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    58 days ago
  • TUTUNAN
    Such a powerful blog. Thank you.
    58 days ago
  • 1CRAZYDOG
    You have spoken truth! It is never to late to work on a skill or our health!! Definitely. I love how you've expressed it in your blog. Thank you.

    HUGS
    58 days ago
  • BILLIEK17
    You speak for many of us who feel the same way. This pandemic certainly hasn't helped as it is easy to use it as an excuse to be "caring" for ourselves with extra food. Ha. Somehow that thinking has to shift and I keep WAITING for it! As for your children....I get that too. My daughter who is 26 thinks her life is passing her by and wants everything figured out NOW. She's married, has a good career, owns a house and wants a baby. She has planned out everything for her future and deviations throw her off. I wish she could "relax" a little but, as you pointed out, she's really just mirroring my path. Oh how I wish I had been more present in my younger days. I mean truly enjoying wherever my life was at any given moment instead of waiting for those "things/life events" I was striving for to materialize and make me happy.....
    59 days ago
  • DESIREE672
    As other people have too, I’ve been looking out for another beautifully written blog.

    I so identify. I know just how to solve my daughter’s problem - hah! - but the best I can do is to listen and stand aside. As for the Japanese, I keep asking DH, “What are they talking about?” when we’re watching TV, and I’ve been in Japan for forty years! When the “kids” are home, I lose track of the conversation and zone out.

    The three times I’ve lost weight, I’ve been kick started by health problems, first my mother’s, then DH’s, and then my own, which were fortunately fixable. I do hope your knee pain will ease soon. I hate to think of you in pain. We’re all supporting each other and supporting you and cheering you on.
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    59 days ago

    Comment edited on: 8/21/2020 11:21:01 AM
  • SLIMMERJESSE
    So nice to see you again. Wonderful blog.
    59 days ago
  • WATERMELLEN
    Powerful blog!!

    You want those nice feelings of being physically and emotionally comfortable in your body. That calm self-confidence that is always there for the noticing.

    Trusting yourself to take care of yourself because YOU matter.
    59 days ago
  • JEANNESPARK
    Yes, tracking is the way to go. Excellent blog.
    I found the whole30 website to be very helpful -- worth a look!
    Great introspection -- sending you best wishes!


    59 days ago
  • WHITE-GREEN
    I'm glad to see you post another one of your very well written blogs!

    Yes, it's hard to move about and exercise if you have pains. I know about that!

    The thing that has helped me greatly in the past months is to follow Bright Line Eating.
    59 days ago
  • HARROWJET
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    59 days ago
  • SABLENESS
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    59 days ago
  • MISSUSRIVERRAT
    You have the awareness, the knowledge, and the tools. You can turn this around.
    59 days ago
  • BEATLETOT
    This blog is so good! My husband just started tracking again, too. I have been tracking, but I just track all the extra calories I've been eating. I haven't been tracking exercise, though, because I haven't been getting any! I'm thinking about trying a classic: "Sweatin' to the Oldies"! I think it is just weird and quirky enough to capture my attention for a little bit. I miss the gym, but it doesn't seem prudent to go. But exercise isn't such a big deal. I just need to eat less! And one of the things that has me thinking about diet is my knees, too!

    Anyway. I miss you. I'm so glad to see this blog from you.
    59 days ago
  • EISSA7
    So many truths resonate in this blog that I know are applicable to many of us, myself for sure. As you point out, “talking is very different than doing”....the best intentions without action just remain intentions, don’t they? You have an action plan...so do I...let’s do this!! emoticon
    59 days ago
  • POLSKARENIA
    So well written and speaking for so many of us, who lurk 8n the shadows, waiting for the magic weight loss to happen....
    59 days ago
  • no profile photo CD25947845
    Such wisdom! Yes, our lives are limited if we don’t like the way we look as we limit ourselves.
    59 days ago
  • VERNAJ3
    Did you read my mind love?? emoticon emoticon emoticon I feel exactly the same way you do ---I don't like being obese; I don't like the way I look; my closet is full of clothes that don't fit; every time I see someone I haven't seen for a while I just KNOW they are going to think "Wow has she ever gained a lot of weight." It is hard to even think about losing weight, easier between meals for sure but when meal time comes I forget all about any inclination I ever had about losing weight. For the last week I've been intermittent fasting 16/8, cutting out all starchy carbs (easy to do because I have plenty of candy growing in my garden), no alcohol, and walking most evenings. I've lost a little over 5 lbs and I'm happy about that BUT I need to continue doing these things until I lose the extra pounds that I've allowed to accumulate on my body and not quit doing what I'm currently doing. Week one is done. Now I will add watching my portions to my current plan. I'm tired of trying to suck my belly in when I'm in the presence of others so I'm gonna lose the belly and then I don't have to worry about sucking it in!!

    Thank you for posting this blog Carolyn. It is very timely for me. emoticon
    59 days ago
  • TRAILBLAZER6
    Amen, Sister! I’m right there with you. Keep us posted on your progress.
    59 days ago
  • NANASUEH
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    59 days ago
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