Not long after Jake and I first got married, we lived in a crappy little apartment in Anchorage, Alaska and dreamed of adventures. Before the days of internet, we bought a road atlas and mapped a route across the United States. We intended to follow it on a motorcycle. The two of us – seeing the country. Even then I had a little notebook in which I would tally our would-be expenses vs our savings (or lack thereof). We discussed what it would be like – to be free. Free from schedules and commitments, free to find ourselves. We were 21 and 22 years old and the world lay at our feet.
Shortly after our planning began, we found out that I was pregnant with Jacob. In our minds, that was that. We needed to keep our jobs, finish school, and start real life. That was the responsible thing to do.
Looking back after almost 20 years, we should have gone. We should have thrown caution to the wind. We should have packed everything up that instant and left. The details would have worked themselves out. Being pregnant isn’t a disease, I would have been fine. There isn’t much in our married life that I look back and say, “I wish we would have…” But I do wish we’d gone on that motorcycle trip.
Instead we stayed in Alaska. Over the years we each had several different jobs, we went to school, we had Jacob, managed apartments, did Amway, Jake started his own carpentry business, we traveled, got into more debt than I’d care to admit, moved from apartment to apartment (11 in 5 years). All in an effort to find where we belonged.
Jake’s job with the Alaska Air National Guard saved us. He had wanted to be a pilot since he was a little boy. His dad flew helicopters in Vietnam and Jake’s dream was to also fly for the military. Unfortunately I had misconceptions about the military and was not as supportive as I might have been. It took us much, much longer than it should have to get “together, together”. Finally, shortly before our 6th anniversary, we left Alaska for Texas where Jake would begin pilot training. Jacob was 4 1/2 and Josh was two months old. For me, this is where our life really began. The first 6 years were simply the prologue.
The military has been a good life for us. We enjoy moving, traveling and meeting new people. We were living a good full life. Though in my heart I knew something was missing. Something was holding us back from who we could be. It was me. Or more literally, my physical body. I was strong, healthy and capable. But I was also carrying around 100+ extra pounds that kept me from reaching my full potential. And I hated it. Every day I faced the reminder that I wasn’t who I wanted to be. Every day I promised I would work harder, be better. Each day when I went to bed I felt like a failure. It was a vicious cycle. It’s impossible in this short post to sum up a lifetime of attempts at achieving a healthy body. But I ask you to trust me when I say – I tried. Every day I tried.
Jake has always been the active type who loves the outdoors. He loves to hike, bike, swim, scuba, camp, backpack… all of it. He loves to try new things and isn’t afraid of a challenge. But there I was, unable to keep up. He never made me feel bad about it, but I knew I was holding us back. I knew that my inability to move physically was keeping us from being all we could be, together. We’d go for hikes, but within a mile I’d be red-faced and unable to breathe. Rather than face the humiliation, I would suggest he take the boys, while I stayed home with whatever excuse I had come up with.
Last year I decided to break the cycle. I was almost 40 years old and I wasn’t wasting any more time. I’d spent the last 20 years wishing I could do more. Now I was going to take the tools available to me and change. I used to wish that I could do it on my own. Certainly I should be able to do that, shouldn’t I? I’d read every book. I’d tried every plan. What was wrong with me? The shame was overpowering. Finally I chose a route many feel drastic and unnecessary, but looking back from this side – 14 months later – I would do it again. In a heart beat. I had gastric bypass.
Not long after my surgery, we headed out on The Big Blue Bus Tour. I don’t know if I would have had the courage to attempt The BBBT if I hadn’t had surgery. Isn’t that weird? My weight and my body controlled my life. I saw everything from the perspective of whether or not I could fit, would I be able to keep up, would people be watching me? Last Friday we went tubing and I had flashbacks to my former life. While floating down the river, I considered getting out of the tube and swimming. But then I immediately questioned how I would get back onto the tube. I saw myself 100 pounds heavier and unable to do so. Old habits are hard to break. But the reality is, 100 pounds ago, I would never have been on that river on a tube. I’d have made excuses, gotten sick, found some way to avoid going.
I’m becoming who I want to be – and it feels amazing. I no longer obsess about losing weight, clothing size, dieting or failing. I concentrate on taking my vitamins, staying hydrated and eating enough protein. I’m not perfect, but I’m finding my groove.
A whole new life has opened before my eyes. I went snorkeling with Jake in Puerto Rico. I’ve never done that before – and it was exceptional. I’ve always resisted water activities but now I find myself open to them. I even hope Jake will take me scuba diving one day. That in itself is a miracle, and not a small one. While researching what we should do for our 20th anniversary this fall, we discussed options I would have never considered before like zip-lining in Costa Rica or riding elephants in Thailand. We decided rather than going to Disneyland next year, we take the family backpacking. Biking the Pacific Coast is something I’m sure we’ll do within the next few years.
This is who I want to be. I want to be active, healthy, strong, and confident. I want to be comfortable in my skin and push myself to do things I would never have done before. I want to hike mountains, bike trails, and swim in the ocean. And I want to do it all with Jake as my partner, my champion, my everything. Fulfilling our potential as a husband and wife team. Finally – equally yoked.
I’m not longer satisfied to be an observer of our life together. I want to be an active participant. I want to live our adventure!
Coming up tomorrow in Part Two: I have a story to tell about my next step toward that goal. It’s a doozy.