November 16 – Forgiving yesterday to live today

November 16. “No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have all of tomorrow. Success depends upon using it wisely by planning and setting priorities. The fact is, time is worth more than money, and by killing time we are killing our own chances for success.” (Denis Waitley)

This is a long quote from the book of daily quotes called Inspiration 365 Days a Year, by Zig Ziglar. I could probably write for several days about this quote. I could write about setting priorities, the value of time, planning for success and so on. Many of my posts this year have dealt with those subjects. Today I want to focus on the first sentence, and what it means for myself, and maybe you, in terms of moving forward in life.

As many of you know, I also write a blog on my Journey toward better health. In that blog I chronicle how I am working to transform myself from a 345 pound, sedentary, middle-aged man into a trim, healthy, middle-aged man. Since starting that journey back on March 1, 2014, I have lost just over 100 pounds. I feel better physically than I have in years. I still have many pounds to lose, and my muscles still need more tone, but I am well on my way.

The reason I bring up that journey today is because of the first sentence. When I was starting this journey, I had ample opportunity to beat myself up for my past sins of the flesh. Truth be told, I still do. At the start, when my weight was just about at the highest it had ever been, I hated what I saw in the mirror. I didn’t just see flabby, bulging fat, I saw more. I saw pizzas, king sized Kit Kat bars, extra large beers, giant bowls full of mixed nuts, thousands of hours spent on the couch watching television, denial about my issues, and so much more. I had recently turned 52, and what I was really looking at was wasted time.

When I was still in my 30s I had lost weight. In 2001 I had my weight down to 218 pounds. I was on my way to being trim and healthy. But then I gave it all back, and then some. I spent over 12 years piling pound after pound onto my body. I spent thousands of dollars on ever-increasing sizes of clothing. At the end of the summer of 2013 I spent a Saturday going through my clothes and getting rid of anything that was less than 3X. I had bought new, giant boxer briefs. I remember my son coming to visit. He was sitting on the bed watching as I purged bag after bag from my closet and drawers. I shamefully showed him the giant underwear, with sadness in my voice. Trying his best to be encouraging he asked “Well, who are you trying to impress anyway?” His question was meant to encourage me and remind me that my wife loved me no matter what, but the question still stung at the depths of my heart. He wasn’t trying to encourage me, or enable me. He held up the mirror and said that, yes, these underwear were completely unattractive, and it didn’t matter.

Except it did matter. It mattered to me. All that fall and early winter that question kept popping into my head. As I ate cookie after cookie, downed gallons of pop and beer, and plowed through giant tubs of nuts and peanut butter, that question would still pop in my head.

Although it was still a while before I started on my journey, I think I hit the bottom one day driving home from work. It was a common occurrence for me to pull off and get a snack on the way home. Sometimes it was an ice cream sundae (even in the dead of winter). Other times it would be a quick cheeseburger from a fast food joint. This time I decided that I wanted some chocolate. I pulled into a Walgreens and went inside. There at the checkout, with all the other impulse items, were Kit Kat bars. I love Kit Kat bars, and on this day they were “on sale”. I don’t remember the price, but I do remember that it was a two-for deal on Giant Kit Kat bars. For those who don’t know, a Giant Kit Kat bar has 8 full size sticks of the candy inside. I bought the two. My idea was to eat one that day on the way home, and stash the other in my work bag for another day.

I got in my car and back on the road. I was about 5 miles from home. I put one of the bars in my work bag, and started on the other. Within 1 mile that one was gone, and I was reaching into my bag for another. Within another mile that one was consumed as well. For those of you interested, that represented a 410 calorie “snack” (12 Weight Watchers Points Plus). I expected to feel good when I ate the bars, and initially I did. Within an hour though I felt like crap. My wife got home around that time and asked what I wanted for dinner. I confessed what I’d done and she was concerned. I still ate dinner that night.

That was the lowest I’d sunk. Not because it was my biggest oddly timed snack, but because I realized just how disgusting some of my habits were becoming.

The reason I bring all this up is that I had a very storied and sordid past when it came to food intake and my careful avoidance of exercise. When I decided to do something about it, I had to make many decisions about how to proceed in my life. One of them was to decide that I had to forgive myself for my past. I couldn’t hold onto resentment for myself about the choices I had made, and still make good ones going forward. I had to embrace the first sentence of this quote, and say that yes, I had wasted a lot of time, but every day brought a new opportunity to do the right thing.

I won’t lie and say that the decision to forgive myself came all at once, and I never looked back. I have spent many days and nights kicking myself for my past choices. Most recently I was looking in the mirror last night at the sagging skin below my belly button. It is the deflated balloon that was once filled with pizza, beer, peanut butter and Kit Kat bars. Now it hangs like a sad reminder. When I lost my weight in my 30s I didn’t have quite this problem. My skin was younger and more elastic, and I hadn’t abused my body quite so much before starting the program of weight loss.

This morning when I woke up I knew that to move forward on this journey, I had to – once again – forgive myself for my past. With regards to this quote, I would change only one word. Rather than “tomorrow”, I would say that I have “TODAY”. In fact, all I have is today. I can’t change what I did in the thousands of yesterdays, and tomorrow has not yet come. Today I can make right choices and move myself forward.

Today my reflection is on forgiveness. Today I am thinking about the need I have to continually forgive myself for my past mistakes so that I make good choices today.

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