I really enjoy eating — who doesn’t? — but I have a tendency to indulge this appetite more than I should. As we began preparing for an upcoming television series, I realized that I had to prepare for not only the emotional and language content of the program but also for the visual presentation, which, regrettably, included me. Looking at some of my recent website footage, I realized that if I didn’t do something about my weighty appearance, people might be flipping through the channels, stumble upon one of our episodes, and think they were watching a National Geographic episode about large sea mammals.
So I had to face that awful realization that I couldn’t keep eating like I did when I had the metabolism of a seventeen-year-old. Donna helped me clean all the junk food out of the house, and I began to exercise on a regular basis.
Three days later I discovered that I had not lost the weight I had gained over the last ten years or so. Surprise. In fact, I was wearing the same pants. I mean, come on, why should I give up cheeseburgers and all-you-can-eat ribs if I’m not going to see instant results? And this is the place where dieting usually hits the skids, isn’t it?
But I knew that if I went back to my former life of eating and inactivity, the Immigration people would probably force me to join a walrus colony, so I persisted in my program of reduced calories and increased exercise. (In the end, doesn’t it all come down to that?) Changing habits is difficult, but gradually the new ways became habits of their own. Over a period of two or three months, I lost fifty pounds and kept it off.
Still, I wanted to do more than lose weight. I also wanted to improve my physical fitness, so Donna and I joined a local gym. I hadn’t lifted weights in so long that I couldn’t remember how to do a single exercise in the place. I was embarrassed to sit down at the first machine and discover the appallingly small amount of weight I could lift. I even looked around, hoping no one would notice.
I admit that I felt a temptation to quit and thereby cover up how weak I had become over the years. But again I persisted, lifting a little more weight each day for a couple of weeks until I felt like I was making real progress. One day I really put some effort into one particular apparatus and managed to lift 180 pounds. Pleased with myself — a little puffed up, actually — I got up from my seat and began to take a breather.
At that moment, a large, thickly-muscled fellow, many years my junior, sat at the machine I had just vacated and lifted the same weights I had just struggled with. He was kind enough to make it appear as though he were actually working at it, so I thought, Hey, if he and I are lifting the same weight, maybe I’m actually getting strong. My fantasy was soon destroyed as he rose from his seat, added weights to the bar until they totaled 360 pounds — double the total I had lifted — and began to work with that weight. I was crushed.
Each day for six weeks I returned to the gym, adding a few pounds to the bar here and there, sweating and grunting at this piece of equipment and then that piece of equipment. I was actually getting to the place where I kind of enjoyed the experience — not as much as a bag of Cheetos, mind you, but still not an entirely miserable experience.
Then yesterday as I completed my workout, I added a few more pounds to the piece of equipment I described earlier, and to my surprise, I discovered that I was lifting 400 pounds. Six weeks earlier I would not have thought that possible.
On my way home from the gym, it occurred to me that making progress in weight lifting is very much like making progress in anything else — in acquiring and sharing Real Love, for example. On many occasions, people have asked me how they can change their lives with Real Love, and my answer is always pretty much the same: Tell the truth about yourself, expose yourself to the opportunities to feel loved unconditionally, and then share that love with others.
And then, in most cases, I begin — either immediately or at various stages along the road — to hear the litany of excuses that follow:
- You’re kidding! How could that make any difference?
- I tried that (for two days), and nothing happened.
- I don’t know what to say to people.
- It takes too much time to go to those meetings you talk about.
- I can’t make phone calls and tell the truth about myself. It’s just too weird.
- This is just too uncomfortable.
- How long do you expect me to keep this up?
- I’m already busy. How do you expect me to add even more to my life?
- Why should I do this? My husband isn’t doing anything.
- I’m reading the book, but I don’t have time to make calls or anything.
- I have friends. I don’t see why I have to talk to anybody about Real Love.
Growth of any kind requires real effort. Different effort. Often painful effort. Consistent effort, even when things get difficult. Especially when things get difficult, just like when you’re on a diet or when you’re exercising. And if you quit when the progress becomes difficult, you’ll never get where you want to go. You can complain about how difficult it is, but that doesn’t change the direction or angle of the path.
Ironically, although we often complain in our lives about what it takes to do the right thing, we have amply demonstrated with our experiences that being on the wrong path requires much more effort than being on the right one. Getting and Protecting Behaviors are not only miserable and destructive but utterly exhausting. Anger, lying, and acting like victims, for example, are more draining than telling the truth and loving ever could be. The only reason people find the path to Real Love difficult is that in the beginning, the effort on this new path is simply different from what they’re used to. It’s uncomfortable, and we do have a powerful tendency to avoid what causes us discomfort, don’t we?
But I promise you that the rewards of Real Love are worth all the discomfort we might encounter along the way. Well worth it. As you begin your pursuit of Real Love, as you begin your exercise program, you might be able to lift only a few pounds, but if you persist, and if you’re willing to sweat consistently, before long you’ll discover one day that in the middle of a difficult situation you’re lifting four hundred pounds. And you’ll be most pleased — and perhaps a little surprised.
Replace your anger & confusion with peace and happiness.
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