Approximately five months ago, during Lent, I had a negative reaction to a photo a friend had taken of me during that time. I had been dreading seeing it. Once I did, it struck me in a terrible way, a mixture of anger, disappointment, and indignation. I often say physical appearance shouldn’t matter but it does. How we look reveals a lot about lifestyle and health. Seeing myself made me feel I had really let others and myself down. It is a struggle to take better care of myself. It always is and when times are stressful, it is one of the first priorities to shift downwards.
That night after seeing that photo, I took a mile walk with my dog. I haven’t always felt my age but I do feel older. It can be disheartening to experience these feelings. That night, I prayed on it. The walk helped me feel better. It was an opportunity to focus on breathing and moving.
That struggle with my fitness was in keeping with my Lenten journey and in keeping with my personal life journey. Lent isn’t the only time I assess and reflect on where I am in my life. Reflection isn’t always positive. I don’t always feel that I am growing and evolving. I also ponder why I’m not evolving the way I did two, five or ten years ago. I am my own worst critic and the person with whom I am constantly competing. My main point of comparison is the person that I once was. I achieved a certain goal in my fitness and I was so proud. Then that level of fitness fell away as I failed to maintain that achievement. I allowed work to wear me down. I was derailed by feelings of inadequacy, fear and failure. But I had enough of the excuses. I knew how to help myself. I had to push through that doubt and fear. The morning after my night time walk, I went to boot camp for the first time in several weeks. I felt supported by my coaches. It was good to be back in community and encouraging other people who were struggling. It was a powerful return to routines that nurture me.
I always have the capacity to change. I don’t always have the will. It becomes a vicious cycle because then I want to hide and not push myself; this wasn’t the first time I’ve fallen away from being healthy. For example, my prayer life continues to be an area of growth. I used to waste mornings on social media though I knew it kept me from daily prayer. This choice to bypass discipline frustrates me. I have to consciously work on my willingness to be transformed.
Discipline is the answer. Since that time, I have consistently worked out 5 to 6 days a week by lifting weights in our home gym, taking samba, hip hop, and kickboxing classes, and working out at my training gym. I have been praying the Liturgy of the Hours and the rosary daily. There are days when I’m not feeling motivated or forgiving or close to God or even close to myself. But I keep pushing. I am taking up my cross. It is not easy nor will it ever be. At times, it can be painful and inspire tears or anger. But I committed to taking up all my crosses during Lent. All these months later, I’m still moving forward through and past those struggles. When I look at myself in photos, I’m trying to be more compassionate and loving to that ever evolving mujer.