Not a Retraction, but Perhaps a Clarification…

So, after yesterday’s post hit the interwebs, I got together with Steve and Lori for our normal Friday night thing. And, honestly, I didn’t even realize I’d posted what I posted, because I write things, and then usually schedule them like a month in advance. Also, I hadn’t written with malice or anything more serious than an annoyance at what seems like an unhelpful paradigm sucking the life out of modern America.

The paradigm goes something like this: I want ‘A’ to be true about me. ‘A’ seems to be true about my friend _______. Therefore, I’m going to talk to friend about every strategy I plan to implement in my life to make myself more ‘A’ in the next month or so.

I realized this is what was bothering me when Steve and Lori were like, dude, that was a crazy blog post. Also, I realized it when we started talking about Bible studies, fellowship, and accountability.

Because, in the paradigm, ‘A’ can equal just about anything, but it seems to often equal skinny and/or spiritually magnificent.

We modern Americans have the problem that we rarely have to solve problems through a slow burn. We just pull up Amazon and buy some gadget or possibly a self-help book to fix our problems.

The thing is, there are some problems that have more to do with who we are than what we have or even what we do.

One of those problems is Fat Kid.

So, let’s be real – I take in more calories every day than just about anyone I know. I weigh more than most of the men I know and all but one or two of the women. I can’t seem to talk myself out of getting a white mocha from Starbucks every day of the week. I HAVE FAT KID SYNDROME, which manifests itself in my life through the whispered siren song of all peanut butter cups within a 50-mile radius of me.

I am not good at saying no to peanut butter cups.

I YEARN FOR THEM, and I give into their seduction about twice a week… in a good week.

However, I am EXCELLENT at exercising.

Exercise has been one the few things in my life that I’ve rarely neglected for much longer than a month here or there in the past 20 years. And, the thing about it is that I’m not particularly good at the physical feats I perform. At one point in time, I was an excellent softball player but, nowadays, I run, do yoga, and ride my bicycle. I run slower than pretty much everyone else in the world who considers herself a runner. My yoga practices are not at all elegant. And my bike is meant for meandering.

Additionally, I’m not the type who exercises every day. I usually make it three or four days a week, and, granted, I do a lot of things that other people would count as exercise… but I don’t count those things.

The other thing I do really well is I read. In fact, I can think of exactly one person in my life who rivals (and, actually exceeds) my reading prowess. This is an awesome thing to be good at on a number of levels – not the least of which being that I don’t struggle to read my Bible. I struggle to pray more than anyone I know, for sure, so don’t take this the wrong way. Additionally, I admit that I don’t read my Bible every day. I probably read more of my Bible than most folks who do read it every day, because I sometimes read five chapters a night for three nights in a row, then don’t read it at all for two days. I generally read it cover-to-cover, which is exactly the way church leaders tell people not to read it. Also, on the days when I don’t read my Bible much at all, I listen to sermons and read books about theology. Reading books that aren’t the Bible instead of reading the Bible is also something that church leaders say not to do, and while I get why they say that, I don’t feel any shame about it.

I’m talking about reading my Bible and exercising, rather than talking about saying no to peanut butter cups or sitting down to pray, because they’re the two areas of my life that people often admire. Friends go on diets and/or Bible reading tears with me as their accountability partner… and they inevitably burn out completely before the end of one month.

This bothers me a lot. I don’t mind being an accountability partner to someone who is pulling his or her own weight, but I really don’t like people asking me to make the impossible happen… and I only use the word impossible because Americans have unreasonable expectations.

Americans really need to stop thinking they can fix the “problem” with a month of dieting or reading their Bibles every night. They need to stop believing in the power of the quick sprint, and realize that sprinting hard at any time in a 60-70 yr race inevitably leads to walking LONG sections of the course later, because the body seeks balance in its output. Also, consider that, in the harsh reality of nature, humanity is terrible at sprinting. However, we are incredibly capable of killing a gazelle by slowly running after it until it drops dead from exhaustion. I am a firm believer that we were meant for long, slow races.

AND the thing about it is that running any race requires a humility before the ridiculous task of outrunning the gazelle.

Becoming thinner requires a humble, slow trudge, as does spiritual maturity.

It bothers me when my teacher friend gives up half of her salad dressing and tells me how hard she worked out the night before because she’s currently trying to run right up on the gazelle’s ass, when what she really needs to do is just barely keep the gazelle in sight. But pointing that out only makes her run faster, because she wants to prove me wrong.

Which is stupid.

Because I’m not wrong.

Because, even though I’m not thin, exercising is something I do well, and, in fact, it’s one facet of who I am. WHICH IS THE ULTIMATE GOAL.

The goal is not thinness.

The goal is not reading the Bible every day.

The goal is being a person who is healthy and satisfied both physically and spiritually. The goal is a change in who you are – a change in identity.

I am Katie – slow runner and reader of texts other people find tedious. It would take years, and possibly even decades, to rob me of that identity…

Just like it would take years, and possibly decades, to make me into a vegan who enjoys talking to God with vulnerability and trust…

Just like it would take years, and possibly decades, to make my friend into someone who is physically healthy.

That’s why her half-eaten salad packets, unwillingness to bend over to pick up trash, plans for daily workouts, request that I hold her accountable, etc… bother me. She’s going to spend a month or two committed to losing weight. She’ll probably stop short of losing an amount of weight that’s healthy because when I ask her to set goals, she refuses, and she’ll probably never make it a priority to pick the trash up without mechanical assistance, which would be my first step if I were her. And, somehow, I now share ownership of that failure because I’m her “accountability” partner who brings her salads that aren’t healthy enough. She’s asked me to help her complete a task that she’s impeding herself from completing. She’s asked me to get something done, and is now sabotaging my efforts to help her get it done, even though I know what it takes to get it done.

I know that’s a selfish way of thinking about it. I should be able to help her without this level of frustration.

But I’m frustrated. That’s what the post was about. It didn’t have much of a point, other than to admit that I’m frustrated, and it’s making me judgmental to the point of obsession over my friend’s half-eaten salad packets.


2 thoughts on “Not a Retraction, but Perhaps a Clarification…

  1. This made me think of something I read somewhere that I will certainly butcher because I don’t remember the quote well enough to correctly quote it and I don’t even remember where I read it. BUT. I read somewhere that what you do on a daily basis is more important than what you do infrequently (i.e. binge dieting, 30 day challenges, etc…). I think there was something about identity in there, but if there wasn’t, it should have been. Because what you do every day is who you are, more than what you do once in awhile. For example, I’ve run exactly one half marathon. I am not a runner. I haven’t run since I crossed that finish line. You are a runner, because you run on an almost daily basis. You are a reader because you read every day. I’ve been using this as motivation for my resolution this year. It doesn’t matter what I do tomorrow or even what I did yesterday. It only matters: did I do it today? It is motivating to think that I have to do something today, instead of guilting myself into looking ahead at the 364 other days when I will likely be discouraged and stop pursing this resolution. In other words, it’s easy(er) to work out today, hard to think about working out 365 days. And theoretically, if I work out (almost) every day, maybe I can change who I am, slowly but surely, until I don’t have to force myself to work out, because it’s a habit, it’s a part of what I do and who I am.

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