Moon Man has been on a short business trip to Minnesota for the last two days. Also, one of our two cats yacked on the rug. Stay with me; this will make sense in a second.
I like to think of myself as being a modern and liberated woman. I wear ankle-length skirts not because of some outdated notion of appropriate women’s wear, but because my inner hippie princess prefers them, and besides, you’re somewhat less likely to be mugged and raped in a back alley if your would-be attacker thinks there’s a chance that you might be a nun. I bake bread and do needlecrafts because I enjoy them, and because I am practicing for the zombiepocalypse and nobody seems particularly excited about letting me practice with my axe. And I like to have the house clean(ish) and good-smelling–and free of cat yack stains–when my husband comes home from business trips, because it’s a nice sort of thing to do, and I like to do little things that make people happy. I don’t feel any particular obligation toward it–he’s a good sport and would clean up the yack stain himself if I left it there–but really, why not take a minute to do the one little thing that would make someone else’s life a little better? It’s the same reason that I thank the guy who bags my groceries and overtip my waitresses, and why we mow the entire strip of land between our house and our neighbor’s house instead of following some imaginary boundary line.
And all of this got me to thinking about motivation today. What is it that motivates us to do the things we do? Why, for instance, am I suddenly deciding to watch what I eat (with mixed success, I should note–today’s breakfast was Cocoa Pebbles), and why, for the love of all things holy, am I strapping myself into workout clothes and going out to do uncomfortable things several times each week? I mean, sure, I get to put stickers on my calendar when I exercise, but seriously? Am I really that motivated by colorful smiley faces?
The answer, of course, is “no, not really; there’s a bigger picture here”, because there’s always a bigger picture here. So what on earth am I thinking?
And after a bit of soul-searching, I think I’ve discovered at least one of my root motivations: I want to try something different.
I’ve been overweight for most of my life. I’ve been really overweight since high school, and I’ve been ZOMG SO OVERWEIGHT since I hit my twenties. It’s only been in the past few years that I officially hit Biggest Loser-level overweight, but I can’t actually think of a time in my life when weight wasn’t an issue in some way or another, or when anything with “gym” in the title didn’t make me want to curl into a little ball (ok, a big ball, but you get my point). I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I’ve earned my Certificate of Completion; heck, if writing books on How to Be Overweight And Really Rather Ashamed of It suddenly became popular, I could be a bestseller before breakfast.
But that’s just it: I’ve already done this. A lot. And while it’s certainly been fun (insert derisive snort here), I’m ready to try something different. It’s a truth of life that periodically we need to let go of things that have been with us for years–sometimes it’s a relationship gone sour, sometimes it’s that oh-so-comfy but oh-so-stained-and-holey nightie, sometimes it’s a habit or lifestyle, sometimes it’s a fear. Sometimes it’s a pattern of self-talk. Sometimes it’s an address.
Sometimes it’s 200 pounds of fat.
Don’t get me wrong–I’m not denying the shame and fear aspect of my own motivation. Blah blah blah heart attack waiting to happen blah blah risk of diabetes blah blah blah potential stroke blah blah they’re all gonna laugh at me. But by now I’ve heard those things so many times that they’re just background noise, like the tornado sirens that they test regularly around here. Had this been an actual emergency, the lecture you just heard about how you’re all fat and stuff would’ve been followed by a nurse with a blood pressure cuff. The fear is there, sure, but it’s in the same box with fear of being eaten by a bear: it’s always a possibility, but it’s not really impacting my day at this time. And yes, it’s embarrassing to have to eye the booth at a restaurant to see if I’ll fit into it, but so do a lot of people. It’s not really all that unusual in modern America.
So I’m not doing this out of fear, at least not for the most part. I’m doing this because I want to see if the clothes in the non-plus-size section really are as cute as they look from way over here in the Fatchicks area. I want to see if running a 5k really is as much fun as people seem to think it is (otherwise why would they keep doing it?). I want to go dancing–ok, I want to take some dance lessons and then go dancing–and see if maybe that’s an as-yet-undiscovered sneaky ninja skill I’ve got, just waiting to blossom. I want to go dogsledding, because dogs are awesome and Gary Paulsen’s novels made a big impact on me and I want to be cool like Gary, but the sleds will only hold so much weight and I’m over the limit unless I’m willing to just not carry any dog food and instead let them chew on a tasty haunch of Buffalo Butt.
I want to test-drive a new life, basically. And I’m going to have to do some work to get there, but that’s ok–it’s not like I’ve got a whole lot else going on right now.
Well, except for cleaning up cat yack. But unlike my no-longer-relevant fat, I don’t think the cat yack is ever really going to go away, unless I get rid of the cats–and unlike my butt, I don’t really feel like the cats are something I’m ready to let go.