Back in love again: with self

Published 1:45 pm Sunday, September 13, 2015

Nothing like a doctor’s exam, I mean a real exam, to make you take stock of your own mortality.

I experienced something like that this week when I went for a stress test; recommended by my cardiologist because of my history of coronary heart disease. When you have to confront these situations in life you get the chance to realize that over the years – and quite a few of those years have passed before me – you’ve developed a relationship with your body and mind; in other words, with yourself.

I also knew then that it was time to go from the Fig Newtons to the self-help books. If you don’t believe in such things, that they can really lead to improvement, well then you can stop reading right now.

Like any relationship, the one you have with self can be positive and affirming or negative and destructive. It requires consistent communication and attention. Your relationship with yourself can be rewarding or a source of pity and anxiety. Sure, I’d always been told and come to believe that there will always be ups and downs, but by practicing healthy behavior consistently I could find a balance somewhere in the middle.

Living a healthy lifestyle probably should start at the dinner table and end with a short walk afterward, but I’m as guilty of not doing that as anyone. There are also more strenuous physical exertions like the gym, tennis court, cycling, or participating in the ball sports.

Saying you “should” do it: changing your eating habits or exercising is not sustainable. You won’t enjoy it, I didn’t and thus I didn’t sustain it.  It’s like those New Year’s Resolutions; yes, the ones you ignored before it was even Groundhog Day.

Sometimes you have to find a reason to exercise or eat better that doesn’t revolve around a sense of obligation. Think of how lucky you are to do these things. If you run, be grateful for that fact. If you like to lift weights, reflect every improvement you’re making with every lift. Pay attention to each new milestone you achieve.

I was the kind of person that was unhappy with my body for many years: too skinny, too short, poor vision, bad teeth. Oh, there’re still days when one glance in the mirror shakes up my fantasy and the reality of what I’m looking at really ticks me off. But it’s just me, y’all.

Something else I sometimes lose sight of: I need to treat myself the way I would want to be treated. Rather than try and squeeze yourself into something you ain’t: simply let go of that control and get used to some acceptance. Learn to treat yourself with respect, dignity, and love. Learn to listen to what your body is telling you it needs and wants. Poor self-care can be a sign that something deeper is going on inside you, either on an emotional level or with your priorities. I have to learn to communicate with myself by going below the surface and find out what’s really going on.

Find balance, you know…middle ground.  If you can only exercise three days a week, fine. If you can only get in 30 minutes today, fine. Find what YOUR balance is instead of living on either end of the spectrum. Not exercising at all and exercising seven days a week can be equally as bad for you.

Finally, I had to stop putting myself down. Conversely, I was putting others down, and that wasn’t healthy at all; just contributing to all those annoying little aches and pains I found myself getting. Evil neighbor that old anxiety, for sure.

How did I re-focus: simple – falling in love with myself all over again. My body’s my friend. I have to love my friend.  Whatever it was I was chasing wasn’t going to make me any more complete. I was just myself, and now I realize that that’s enough.

If you think all this has been some journey to perfection, you’re wrong.  But no matter what news I receive from the doctors, it was sure good to love me some me again.

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at gene.motley@r-c or 252-332-7211.