I’ve been hesitant to write this post because, well, I’m worried it could be taken the wrong way. I have to trust that you’ll know it’s coming from a place of compassion because I’ve been there myself, as you can see in the photo. But we’ll get back to that later.
Years ago when we lived in Eagan, a busy Twin Cities suburb, I was in a parking lot packing kids and groceries into the car when I happened to glance up and see another woman a few cars away doing the same. She was strapping her kids into a minivan and was dressed from head to toe in sweats. Her hair was rumpled and she was overweight. But the thing that caught my attention was the miserable look on her face.
Now, she might have been up all night with a sick child or maybe she was feeling ill herself. We’ve all had to face the world on days when we would have preferred to stay home in bed. Maybe she’d received bad news that morning or her kids had been fighting in the store. Whatever it was, she looked utterly defeated.
I was fairly new to the world of motherhood at the time and after seeing this woman I remember thinking that I didn’t ever want to look like that. I went home and immediately threw out anything resembling a sweatsuit. Now, am I saying you should never wear a sweatshirt? Of course not. As a matter of fact, just the other day I read a conversation thread on another blog where the women were discussing how they would never leave the house wearing workout clothes. I say if wearing yoga pants makes it more likely you’ll get your exercise in, go for it. The folks at the grocery store can handle it.
So, no, it wasn’t what she was wearing that shook me up. Or the fact that she was driving a minivan. What stopped me in my tracks was her look of desperation, of how did I get here and whose life is this, anyway?
Surely that could never be me, I thought. Surely I wouldn’t ever be like the man in the poem who was “not waving but drowning.” I drove off determined to keep it all together, no matter what. But even with the best of intentions, it’s possible to fall into living without intention. And you can find yourself with a messy house, messy life, messy everything.
Fast forward to a few years later. I’m sitting in a bookstore with the lovely ladies of my book club and we’re passing around photos. I come to one of me and I’m shocked to see that I am heavy. There’s no other word for it. Sure, I’m wearing a nice white skirt and a cute top in the photo, but I have chunked out. Somehow, I had let it creep up on me. I got on the scale the next morning and realized I had gained 40 pounds over the course of adopting Lily and then dealing with her heart surgery the following year. I joked that I had wanted to keep things fair so I gained weight with her just like with my pregnancies, but the truth is that I had not coped well with the stress (and, oh, it was stressful).
With the image of my chunky self locked in my mind, I started exercising again and cleaned up my eating habits. When the next Big Life Challenge came last fall in the form of Tim’s accident, I decided not to use it as an opportunity to fall apart. I kept up with my exercises and tried to eat well. I called upon all the resources at my disposal, from FlyLady to Holly Rigsby, to my friends and family and God to help hold it all together. And by golly I did hold it together.
This isn’t just about weight, of course. You can be thin and fit and still have that “I’ve lost my mojo” look. I do get overwhelmed at times (okay, lots of times) but the choices I’ve made are mine and I want to celebrate them. Yes, that’s right, celebrate them. Not just surviving but thriving. Dirty dishes and all.
I hope you know I’m not picking on that poor woman in the parking lot. I hope she was just having a bad day. Or, if not, that she found her lost mojo and rediscovered her fabulousness. We are all that woman at one time or another. If someone tries to make you think otherwise, don’t believe her for a second. That’s why I’m showing you this photo, painful as it is to dig it up. And you know what? I’m actually proud of the woman in the photo. She kept it all together the best she could, using what she had at the time. She learned a few things along the way, and, most important of all, she didn’t give up.
So how’s your Mojo Meter? Is the needle on Low because you haven’t exercised in weeks, your office is a mess, and you can’t stop bickering with your husband? Or is it on High because you’ve just run a 10K, turned in a fantastic proposal for work, and the laundry’s all neatly folded and put away? Maybe the needle’s somewhere in between. Well, today’s a chance to try again. Let’s get our needles to High. We can do this.