You can go your own way

My boyfriend in college once told me that I reminded him of the female character in a Celtic song who was forever “chasing cannonballs.”

Checking out a cannon in Mammoth Springs, Arkansas with my husband

Checking out a cannon in Mammoth Springs, Arkansas with my husband

He was right.

I have been notorious for stubbornly making my own decisions. I often refer to this tendency as my “God versus Bethany” struggle. For years, mostly due to some tragic situations in my past, I chose to trust Bethany rather than God. Against all rationale, good advice, concerned friends, promptings from my conscience AKA the Holy Spirit of God, and even learned lessons from my past, I continued to choose to make choices based on Bethany’s will, not God’s.

This led to many uncomfortable, painful, and costly consequences. Thankfully, with the help of my anonymous program of recovery and sponsor and growing dependency on God, deferring to God’s will seems to be my go-to more often than not these days.

God continues to give me opportunities to choose, though, and sometimes letting go and letting God is not easy for me.

After having my daughter nearly eight months ago, I decided to eat an elephant–all at once. Finish grad school, with all A’s, of course. Prep for comps and read countless pieces of in-depth literature. Nurse my baby 6-8 times a day. Care for her the rest of the day. Write posts for my two blogs. Volunteer to edit documents for several friends. Maintain a super tidy, clean home. Continue to work my program of recovery. And of course, lose all that disgusting baby weight that had bruised my ego to a deep, dark purple.

Jogging with strep throat and doing the Rocky dance, February 2013

Jogging with strep throat and doing the Rocky dance, February 2013

I learned the hard way–by trying to start running again (and having some success) while recovering from a blood transfusion, an injured back, and two rounds of strep throat–that losing weight at my age after having a baby is not easy. It does not happen quickly. And it should probably not be on my to-do list until I’m finished nursing.

As has been the case in the past, it took a painful “aha” moment for me to realize that I’d overfilled my own plate. No one had done this to me or for me. I was not a victim. I had done it to myself in an effort to do everything as perfectly as possible.

My husband and I are blessed with plenty of land and many hiking trails. After having wide fire lanes created with the help of the Forestry Commission, my husband offered to watch our daughter so I could hike the fire lanes and take some photos. I jumped at the opportunity for fresh air and alone time, even though I felt miserable, lacked anything resembling energy, and had multiple other to-do’s on my ever-important list.

As I hiked along, I quickly realized my body had not recovered fully from my recent bout with strep throat. Every step was torture. To make matters worse, searing pain radiated through every square inch of my back and neck. But I kept going.

I took a wrong turn along the way and wound up at the bottom of an incredibly steep ravine. The only way out was up.

What an order. I could not go through with it.

So I sat down in the dirt with my panting companion, my cat Shao Hou, and cried.

Then I mustered enough energy to hike back up the ravine and head back home. I have the worst sense of direction of anyone I know. I don’t do “east” or “north.” I do “left” and “right.” That’s it. I found myself turned around on our own land, feeling like an idiot, and physically beyond the point of exhaustion and nearly crippled with pain.

I decided to cut through the woods in the general direction of “DOWN.” I figured eventually, I’d either come to the road or to our house. I clawed my way through briars and piles of brush and finally reached one of our trails.

As I reached the trail, with Shao Hou still patiently panting alongside me, I noticed a huge rock covered in moss, shaded by a large oak tree. It looked like a cool, beautiful place to rest for a  moment to catch my breath.

But you know me.

I didn’t stop. Oh no. I was going to finish this darn hike if it killed me. So I kept going rather than allowing myself to let go of my standards for performance in lieu of realistic expectations for my sick, aching body.

I cried the whole way home.

I felt sorry for myself. I felt angry at my body. I felt out of control. I felt that I’d wasted my precious “me” time on a failed effort to enjoy nature and get some exercise.

After letting my husband hug me and taking a hot bath, the “aha” moment hit me.

I needed help.

A healthier version of myself... slow and steady this time around. 10 more pounds to go! July 2013

A healthier version of myself… slow and steady this time around. 10 more pounds to go! July 2013

I could continue to go my own way and potentially do long-term damage to my body. Or I could listen to my body and stop pushing myself beyond my limits. And visit my doctor. And find a physical therapist.

So I did. Slowly but surely, my body is recovering, but not without plenty of effort and some pain.

The difference is that the pain I feel now is due to making the right choices to take care of my body and get help to heal it versus the pain I felt due to my refusal to slow down and accept reality, which never mimics anything like perfection.

Next time I hike the fire lanes on our land, I’m going to stop at that mossy rock, pet my panting buddy Shao Hou, and drink some water while I admire the miracles of God’s creation surrounding me. And I won’t feel bad about taking a break, either.



No quit in me

*Special thanks to guest writer Henry Petty for this wonderful post.*


Henry at Race for the Cure 2012

Henry at Race for the Cure 2012

I recently ran a 5k jingle bell run.  I was pacing myself really well, running then walking, walking then running, walking then walking, and running less and less.  I had passed a couple of people I knew were “health nuts,” and I overheard them say, “He runs at lunch, so he’s doing really well.”  This gave me the juice to push myself harder than I ever have.

Then I gassed out.

Around mile 2, the two people who had bragged about me around mile 1 surpassed me with ease, one even patting me on the back almost in an act of charity.  To make things worse, an elderly gentlemen with Santa hat and dress slippers speed walked right past me.  He was the guy I was now pacing with.

So I dug deep down inside to muster up my heart and soul to really get out there and push myself harder than I ever have.  I saw the seemingly never-ending incline on the bridge that connects to the Clinton Presidential Library.  I was booking it.

I passed the older gentlemen, and, within seconds, I passed the two “health nuts” who were walking and striking up a conversation with other runners.

I’ll take that victory.

I’m grateful for my inner drive, knowing that I can overcome anything with enough guts and determination.  There isn’t quit in me, and I’m grateful that inner strength hasn’t quit on me.

Veggie story

Thanks, Henry Petty, for serving as today’s guest writer!

This week marks the one year anniversary of the movie “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” being released to Netflix, and I wanted to share my gratitude to Joe Cross, creator of the documentary that has changed so many lives and the impact the movie has had on my own life.

Up until early 2011, I had gained massive weight by sitting in front of a computer for 10 hours a day.  I had the worst eating habits.  My breakfast, lunch, and dinner all consisted of meat, meat, meat, mashed potatoes laced with lard, and more meat.  My gut was hanging over my belt in my size 46 pants; I was depressed, had no energy, and suffered from sleep apnea among other conditions.  The skinny people in my life and who I spent time with only made me feel fatter than one could imagine and made me even more self-conscious and unworthy of love from anybody.

My “come to Jesus” moment happened after a routine health screening showed I was in the red (bad) margin of bad health 7 out of 8 health categories.  I was borderline diabetic from what the Dr. told me, and having a history of diabetes coming down from both sides of my family didn’t help my chances of escaping.  Quite frankly, I was surprised I didn’t have diabetes already.  The embarrassment grew worse as I saw the scales tip to 310 pounds.

The Indian doctor, bless her heart, told me bluntly, “This is not good.  You need to change.”  She recommended I limit my beef intake to 2 times a week.

Then, in July 2011, I watched a movie, “Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead,” which changed my life.  I highly recommend you Netflix it;  it’s about a man’s decision to juice for 90 days straight. He cured his ailments as well as lost massive weight.

I began the juice fast for all of 2 days, because my girlfriend feared I wasn’t taking in enough.  The downfall to juicing is it’s very expensive, and I was taking in half of the ingredients I should have.  The “reboot” program costs up to $30 daily.

Then, I made a decision to give up all meats and go strictly veggie & fruits.  I’m not vegan like Tess by any means, but I eat a vegetarian diet peppered with seafood (technically, I’m a pescatarian, but I tell everyone I’m vegetarian to avoid the blank stares followed up with endless questions).

And then 4th of July happened.  Like I have so many times before, I failed on my lifestyle change and was really hungry.  In a frantic state of mind, I threw burgers, hot dogs, cole slaw & bratwurst on my plate, nuked them in the microwave, and away I ate.  Momentarily, I felt great and fulfilled.  Afterwards, I felt like crap.  I screamed to myself, “This is IT; this is the LAST TIME I allow myself to fail.  Never Again!”  I quickly made myself a veggie juice to cleanse myself, and never looked back.

I never was addicted to hamburgers, though they are my favorite food that I now substitute with a veggie patty or portabella mushroom.  The reason I ate meat mostly is because of how I was raised.  I was raised around burgers, fried chicken, and Coca-Cola.  Never was I addicted to these foods–it was just a way of life.

Currently, I don’t follow any specific diet, though I’ve read some great books like “The Engine Diet,” “Eating Well for Optimum Health,” and many other books to guide me through.  I do P90X workouts frequently, and I try to stay active.  I’ve lost 30 pounds since I began my journey and have never been happier.  I’m more confident in myself, my clothes fit me better, and my blood pressure is now at a happy medium.

But it all started with Joe’s movie, and for that I am dearly grateful.

For more of Henry’s thoughts, check out his blog.