Recently, a friend sent me this quote, “Chinese philosophers would say: don’t discover who you are, let alone embrace what you find. Instead of choosing self-acceptance, choose self-cultivation. Instead of embracing yourself, overcome yourself. This is not just how you become a flourishing adult. It is the best way to create a flourishing world.” –Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh
As I pondered this quote, I reflected not only on the past five years, but more specifically on the past six months of my life. In November 2015, I decided I wanted to find joy in my life again. I wanted to truly live instead of merely exist. But what needed to change so I could experience this?
During Paul’s illness, I was a caregiver for both him and my children. I was exhausted most of the time and barely took any time for myself. As a result, I neglected some of my basic needs like eating healthy and exercise.
Obviously, if you eat crappy and don’t exercise you gain weight. After Paul’s death, I was experiencing the many ups and downs of the grieving process. I spent hours praying to God, reading the scriptures, serving other people and expressing my gratitude, but something was missing. I needed to lose weight and I didn’t feel healthy. BUT… I had decided to accept myself for who I was. However, acceptance of ones self does not equate to self-love.
My life changed for the better when I realized that eating unhealthy and lack of exercise was a crutch for me. It was not something to embrace, but something to overcome. So, I started to eat healthy and exercise.
Here I am 6 months later, 30 pounds lighter and a whole lot healthier and happier! In this journey, I have discovered I can do more than I ever thought possible. And, yes, I have even learned to love vegetables!
A few weeks ago I had an accident on my bike that left me with a broken ankle. I was devastated, not because of the pain, but because of the inconvenience. Exercise is for my mental therapy as much as it is for the physical aspect. I started to cry when the doctor told me no exercise on that ankle for at least a month. Fortunately, the fracture is not in a weight-bearing bone, so I was given a lovely boot to wear for the next month or two.
Right after I had my accident I felt such frustration! I had worked so hard to achieve success…I was feeling a joy and happiness that I had not felt in a long time...now it felt as if it was being ripped from me.
After having a few pity-party moments, I realized just because I have a broken ankle, it didn’t mean I can’t exercise. I just have to do it differently. After all, I had experienced worse things, like the death of my husband! And I already knew it was possible to learn how to do things differently. So, I decided to stop feeling sorry for myself and look for new exercise routines.
What is the purpose of a trial? It doesn’t push you to do more of what you love or are already good at. It pushes you to do things you don’t think you can or want to do. If God only wanted us to do the things we love and are comfortable with, we wouldn’t need trials.
So with this new trial, I have discovered that I am learning to focus on the areas of my body that were not as strong--my upper body and abs. I am unable to do the exercise I was already good at and loved. And, oh I how miss it! I see people out riding bikes or running down the sidewalk and I ache to participate.
When my husband died, all the dreams and plans we’d made were shattered. Once I started to pick up the pieces, I realized that I can do more and be more than I thought. I have decided not to embrace widowhood, but to overcome it! I don’t have to embrace my broken ankle either, I can overcome it. When we embrace something that means we just accept it, but when we overcome something it means we have achieved success!
So, what is helping me to overcome widowhood? I have learned to intentionally seek out things that are new to me—things that may even scare me. Not long after Paul died, I bought a UTV and a trailer to tow it on. The first time I towed it I was scared out of my mind—mostly because I am not good at backing it up. I absolutely love riding the UTV and am happy to say I’m getting more comfortable with the trailer.
There are many things I have been able to try and successfully do. And some of those things were out of necessity, such as fixing broken toilets, edging my lawn, and fixing broken sprinkler heads, and the list goes on…
I believe life is not about discovering who you are but about discovering who you can become. It is when you learn to embrace your potential, rather than embrace your situation that you become your best self. It is easy to do the things you love and are good at, but more satisfying and growth promoting to discover that you can do things you didn’t know you could.
As mentioned in my previous post OVERCOMER, the first step to overcoming is turning to God through prayer and scripture study. The next step is to trust that He will help you find the different ways you can achieve and grow from your experiences—in essence helping you to achieve your highest potential!