Forever is a bit of a frightening word, isn’t it? It is much easier to take something a day at a time, and just see where it goes.
That’s how I approached weight loss all my life. Even if I joined Weight Watchers/ NutriSystem/ Fill-in-the-Blank and I was all in—I was really all in until I lost the weight. Until I got into a certain size. Until I felt a little bit good about myself.
But forever? That’s the opposite of never, so both come into play. I can never have Graeter’s ice cream again, I can never have something rich and decadent. I have to “be good” for the rest of my life.
It starts to sound a little bit like prison. Isolating. Overwhelming. Depressing. Hard.
The thing is, forever can also be joyful depending on how you look at it. I remember a trip Marc and I made to Cumberland Falls State Park in Kentucky before we were married. We rented a cabin and had a fire going in the fireplace, much to Marc’s dismay. (“But it’s the middle of summer!” he said. “I don’t care,” I said back serenely. “When you go camping you have a fire!”)
We sat in front of that fire for a while, talking up a storm before finally succumbing to the heat and moving outside. We sat in some rickety rocking chairs on the front porch, gazing at the endless trees and content just to be with one another.
“Martha?” Marc said in an old timer’s voice. I looked at him, startled.
“Uh…huh?” I asked, bewildered.
“Martha,” he said again, continuing his old man tone and screwing up his face comically. “We’ve had a good life together, haven’t we? Even if the kids did drive us crazy!”
I twisted my face into a dried Granny Smith apple imitation. “Well, now, George, that’s a fact,” I answered. “Lots of hard times, lots of lean times, but I sure have appreciated all of ‘em bein’ with you!”
We kept on for a bit, looking ahead and looking back at good and loving lives shared. It was our first glimpse of “forever” as we understood it: realizing we wanted to grow old together. Realizing that whatever it took, we were committed to one another.
I felt joy in that moment. I felt the deepest sense of happiness that I could see my life before me with this man, and that I knew it was right. We had a commitment to each other and it was lifelong.
Why is it so hard to make that kind of commitment to ourselves? What is it that makes us panic when we think about having to make lifestyle changes that we will follow the rest of our lives?
For me, part of that fear was that I had never done it before and really didn’t know if I could—if I was capable. I had been on a hundred diets and failed at all of them. If I succeeded in losing weight, I always failed to keep it off.
Part of it was also that I wasn’t worth it. I wasn’t worth making such a big effort. My self-image was so poor that I had a bit of a “what’s the use” attitude. I was in pain, but trying to get past that pain was too big an effort. I was going to die young, but there really wasn’t another path to take. Easier to give in. Give up.
The funny thing is, four years ago (four years!) my commitment didn’t slowly come to me over time. For the first time, I started with the commitment; with the promise that this was a path I was going to be on for the rest of my life—and that I would find a way to figure it out. I would find a way to make it work and to be happy with my new lifestyle.
I did. It wasn’t always easy, and a lot of times it was really hard, but I never wavered from that promise to myself. Somehow, along that road, that commitment and drive gave me a sense of self that I had never before discovered. I got to know myself as a person and I learned, finally to accept and love myself.
Starting with a commitment is tough when you’re not sure where the journey will take you, but it’s a powerful act of faith in yourself and in your future. Perhaps this is the time for you to take that step.
As for Marc and me, we hemmed and hawed when we thought about what to engrave on the inside of our wedding rings. Somehow just inscribing our initials and the date of our wedding didn’t feel quite right. Instead, faded and largely gone after thirty-six years, my ring says “Forever from George to Martha” and Marc’s ring says “Forever from Martha to George.”