Let me start off by telling you that I don’t want to write today’s post. But I’m going to because this is a blog about our lifestyle redesign and how it can help you with yours. So that means the mistakes get in here, too.
This is a story about how I discovered a very big blind spot in my life, begrudgingly allowed someone to point it out, and had a real “oh shit!” moment when I knew I had to deal with it. Sort of like a “lifestyle design” firecracker exploding, actually. Maybe my experience will help you unblock one of your own.
The stories we tell ourselves
The problem with self-editing is that you tend to leave the bad stuff out. And by bad stuff, I mean the stuff that you do to cause pain, misery, and discomfort to yourself and others. In our own minds, we are almost always the savior/victim/bystander, never the guilty one. Or at least we come up with good reasons why we are the guilty ones. You know, because *something else* made us do it.
I’ve been doing a lot of self-editing on a particular chapter lately and Warren called me on it.
A little background
A few years ago my brother had a heart attack. Bo is a big strapping guy who works as a welder and has always been pretty physical on the job. He’s only a year younger than me, but he’s been taller than me since he was a toddler. Even though he’s my younger brother, I’ve always looked at him as this unstoppable force. He works very hard to make a good life for his family, and he has an independent streak that makes him one of a kind. He is an honorable man, loyal to his friends and family, and a devoted father. Plus he’s funny as hell.
In short, I love him dearly.
I’ve talked before about how his heart attack a few years ago was one of the events that spurred our lifestyle redesign. I can barely even write this without crying at the memory. It doesn’t get any easier with time, and every day I hope that my brother is taking better care of himself with the second chance he’s been given.
This is where I admit I’m kind of a jerk
You know that last sentence I wrote? The one about hoping he’s taking better care of himself? Well, I’ve actually taken it a step further. When I’m visiting I watch everything he’s eating like a hawk. I monitor what my relatives are giving him and how often he goes out to eat. When we talk on the phone I pepper him with questions: Is he getting enough sleep? Exercise? Are his kids stressing him out? How are things going at work? Is he taking his medication? Has he been to the dentist lately? Surely he knows dental health is tied to cardiac health? And so on, and so on…
Granted, I mainly take my “concern” out in private with Warren, but my brother and family can probably sense that I’m a little bit of a nutjob about it.
I’ve created whole conspiracies in my head of people who don’t love him enough to step in when he strays from his eating plan or encourage him to exercise. Obviously they don’t love him as much as I do. And he doesn’t get off the hook, either. I’ve gotten really mad at him before for joking about his heart attack or toying with bad habits again.
(This is just one part of the stuff I don’t want to write. It gets worse.)
Jerk is the wrong word. Maybe “hypocrite” fits better.
Bo’s heart attack did have something to do with his smoking and health habits, but he had the deck stacked against him already. Our biological father and his family have a very strong history of early cardiac disease. Which we didn’t know until shortly before Bo’s heart attack.
Do you see where this is leading?
Yeah, I have the deck stacked against me, too. Not only that, my last two rounds of blood work have shown something wrong with my cardiac profile.
The first time I didn’t do anything, thinking it was a fluke. “I’ll just eat better and exercise and it’ll be fine,” I reassured Warren. And by nothing, I mean nothing. Not only did I not lose weight, I actually gained weight.
This time the level came back elevated again, and my doctor told me it was time to see a preventive cardiologist. That sort of freaked me out, though I put the card aside and didn’t schedule it right away. My friend Betsy Moore kept bugging me about it, and since I see her 5 times a week to run, I knew I couldn’t hold off. So I scheduled the appointment.
And then I went back to life as usual. I’m running, aren’t I? What more could I be doing? Really, it’s just a stupid test and everything else looks okay. And I feel *fine.*
Tough love hurts
We settled in to watch a movie a few nights ago and I got up to get pretzels. No, this wasn’t a snack. This was going to be my dinner.
That’s when Warren lost it.
He said he was tired of standing by while I worked at making myself sick, and the mere fact that I’ve been running since November without losing weight should clue me in that my eating was out of control (ouch).
He asked me how I would feel if Bo had gotten that lab test and then had pretzels or blue cheese or any of the other ridiculous things I’d been eating for dinner.
Well, I wouldn’t like that. But he’s the one who’s had the heart attack, not me.
That’s when Warren said the thing that stopped me in my tracks: I’m having the conversation with you now that you wish someone had had with your brother before his heart attack.
Holy shit. There’s no comeback to that. 3, 2, 1 – I’m out.
My confession and redemption
My name is Betsy, and I’ve been abusing my body with food, alcohol, and lack of exercise for most of my life. And now that there are signs it could kill me sooner than I wish to leave the planet, I’m going to do something about it. You know, all the “somethings” I thought my brother should be doing.
I can’t guarantee I won’t be a hypocrite anymore, but on this issue you guys can feel free to call me out.
How this applies to you
The more I think about this, the more I realize that what I’ve been focusing on all this time with my brother is also the thing I’m most scared about for me.
Do you ever do this in your life?
- Look down on the “cheap” guy in your group because you have a problem controlling your own money
- Say catty things about friends who have gained weight when you know you should lose a few pounds yourself
- Tell your go-getter friends that they are working too hard when you know you aren’t working hard enough
There are tons of examples, but you get the idea. A wise friend once told me when we get bothered by a person or situation we should look in the mirror to see what is reflecting back that makes it such a problem. It is an incredibly eye-opening exercise, if you actually do it.
Thanks for reading my story. It was truly a watershed moment for me this week – one of the biggest realizations in my life, actually. Your story may differ, but I encourage you to look inside to find out where you may be a hypocrite and why. The why is the really important thing.
And hey, at least you don’t have to write about it on your blog. (Though you are welcome to anonymously share your hypocrite story on mine.)
Tell me, what do you think?