The Power of No, part 2

white balloon on top of cupcake

Photo by Maria Lindsey Multimedia Creator on Pexels.com

Saying no to food was extremely difficult for me in the beginning. I was a guy that used to eat as many as three or four different kinds of chips and a solid row of cookies, all in one sitting after dinner. Everyone’s bodies are different but if you think about things in basic terms, as stated in part 1, our bodies only need so much to function properly. Everything else is excess. I hate to mention it, but there are also many things our bodies could go without – but you likely know what they are.

The thought of passing up a fresh, tasty donut every single Friday seemed impossible for me from the moment I started. However, I realized I could say no to just one donut; you know, just this once. While I lived in regret throughout the day, I resisted the urge to take one. There sat the box, a familiar sight, near and dear to my heart. Every time I walked by it; more were taken out. The tension mounted as the critical window of opportunity slowly closed. Finally, in passing, I saw the window had fully shut. The donut box was gone and with it, the opportunity for me to chomp down on one.

I also noticed the tension was gone. It was no longer possible to eat one, at least for the time being. Once the opportunity had passed, so did the temptation. Before, I had to eat the donut because I liked them. Plus, the opportunity was always there. But now I discovered for myself the power to say no. If you can say no, even one time, then you will experience the satisfaction that comes with overcoming temptation. It starts small and can easily be overlooked. But I held to the fact I once overcame, and it was possible to do it again!

In my journey to eating healthier, I find that what you see makes a world of difference. One of the reasons I binged on those junk foods was because they were always around. When I didn’t buy them on a trip to the grocery store, it was easier to resist the cookie! I started buying more fruits and vegetables to snack on. I totally agree, they aren’t as good. In fact, they come with their own sets of rules I am still trying to learn. At times, I failed and slipped back into my old ways. During these down moments, a new temptation arose, to quit this whole thing altogether. It is a difficult journey. Results aren’t always visible. It can feel as though I am trudging along receiving no benefit from my new actions. At night when I look in the mirror for any sign of improvement, it is sometimes hard to tell. From day to day, little seems to change. Some say it would have been wise to have taken a “before” photo. That may be good advice for some. But for me, the only image I want in front of me is the vision of me that I want to see. When I stare at what I don’t want to see, it makes me feel that my efforts are fruitless and that I should eat cake. But I chose to focus on the desired result; what I want to look like. I know if I stick to the path, in time it will take me to where I want to be.

I keep fighting and pushing forward. What is interesting is that it does get a little easier to say no, especially when I’ve said no repeatedly. In fact, I recently passed up on the cookies and chips altogether during my trip to the grocery store. Every temptation overcome is a victory. I’m not saying that I will never eat these things again. But at least now I realize that I do have the power to overcome the temptation to eat them daily. I realize that there are chemicals involved that elicit such reactions in my brain chemistry. However, I believe the human will was built to withstand temptation. By not exercising what little discipline I had over my body and its cravings, I just didn’t know it. After practicing, I see how it is possible to take control over oneself. It sent me down another path. Exercise and diet make up only one portion of the power to say no.

The Power of No, part 1

chocolate cake on chopping board
Photo by Marta Dzedyshko on Pexels.com

Given the photo above, if your thoughts are anywhere close to mine, you can already taste how delicious this treat is. The warm, oozing chocolate slowly dripping from one brownie down to the next. But why stop at two? Never do anything half-hearted they say. Let’s pile up three just for good measure. Yes, now it looks totally amazing! Ok, forget all that, let’s talk about discipline!

Earlier this week was my mom’s birthday, which called for a celebration. I called in the afternoon from my lunch break to talk for a few minutes. Later, when I got home, I sent her a text thanking her for being born. Along with it, I sent a picture of a milkshake that I got to celebrate. After all, she was not around to spend the time with, so this was my quirky way of showing her that I cared. As a matter of habit, I celebrate all kinds of things, big or small.

When I sat at the drive thru, I pondered what size shake to get. I had a minute to think it over before ordering but waited to see what the calorie count was before making my decision. Before I started exercising regularly, I always went with a large – no questions asked. But after spending hours beating my body into submission, I now take a more serious look at what I am eating. When I got to the order board, I saw the calorie count. After the initial unbelief wore off, I downsized to a smaller size. The answer to the math proved to be treacherous. One hundred minutes on a treadmill would incinerate that small milkshake. But was it worth it? Ten minutes of enjoyment at a cost of one hundred minutes of light exercise. Astonishing.

I am grateful to God that our bodies were designed to burn calories even when we are not consciously exerting effort. If every calorie burned depended upon me exerting myself in strenuous activity, I’d choose to live on water. Instead, I can eat things that I like every day. I noticed, however, with age comes the masterful ability to retain weight. I used to laugh when I heard people talk about gaining weight just by looking at food. Now I am starting to understand why they said it.

When first signing up at the gym, the guy told me to keep in mind it was twenty percent exercise and eighty percent diet. What an absurd thought. I can work out 7 days a week and still not make headway because of what I put into my body. After I did the math, it’s not that hard to understand. If I put 3000 calories into my body when my body only needs 2000 to function, it must figure out what to do with the difference between the two. For some arguable reason, it wickedly turns that extra thousand calories of deliciousness into fat in places I don’t want it. It was once a secret where the fat was hidden on me… but the now secret’s out!

Exercising caused me to see firsthand how hard it was to burn calories and I knew more needed to be done. I watched a few others around me exercise self-discipline and found it shocking when they said “no” to something. For example, turning down a donut. Who would have thought you could say no to something like that? Since I am a major foodie, I find it hard to say no to all the goodies laying around. But when I saw it was possible to learn how to say no, it changed my thought process. I knew there was something to this; the power to say no.

 

Developed in the Struggle

Have you ever wanted a masterfully crafted body? The commercials make these physically fit people look incredible. Just look at them exercising; they look and feel great! Maybe you believed in it so much that you too joined a gym, literally thrilled with yourself about the results headed your way. Once I was. The local gym screamed at me to get committed. Well, screamed is probably not the right word. They mailed me an advertisement introducing me to a new, low rate. Plus, they offered me a risk-free trial. Basically, for a guy like me, it was a chance to flop without paying for it. Sure, they totally believed in me… But just in case I nosedived into failure in the first month, the gym added some fine print and hit me with a yearlong contract. That’s commitment alright. I was appalled. I thought, what is all this rhetoric! Look bro, I just want to lift weights and get buff, understand?

They conveniently deducted payments from my checking account for the following twelve months. The clause stated if I should happen to quit at any point in the contract, they still would take my money, even after the contract was fulfilled. They informed me the only way my membership would terminate was if I delivered them a personal letter stating that I was leaving after the initial contract period expired. Do people even teach how to write letters anymore? Come on! As part of my membership, they added in some free training sessions. In these sessions, a trainer was assigned to me. It seemed their intent was on seeing how close to the point of death they could take me, without me dying. I thought, this sort of thing should be illegal. Luckily, there is a filter on my mouth that keeps me from saying what I am actually thinking. Without a mirror to see myself exercise, I wondered if I casted a glassy stare that saw deep into their twisted soul. I wondered… do they enjoy watching me suffer? What kind of sick person is this?

Eventually I got through those torture sessions orchestrated by evil; pardon me, by the athletic trainer. They provoked me and pushed me onward to do more. I remember during a set of ten repetitions, on the last one they shouted, “give me two more!” Are you kidding me? Greedy sucker, I already gave you ten; now you want more! Unbelievable! After the training sessions ended, the success of my workout depended entirely on me from that point on. Without a push from the trainer, I had to push myself. But the trainer set the path from the beginning. On a serious note, it takes a special person to be a trainer who always pushes someone to become better. In all honesty, they deserve our utmost respect, admiration, and gratitude.

Along the way, I received a new form of inspiration, called results. When you see results, it becomes fuel to push you forward, through all the hard labor. When you achieve some of your goals, like inches or pounds lost and muscle definition, you realize something important. Lots of forces pushed against you. But when you fight to push back more than they do on you, you are developed in the struggle. Through continuous effort and training, you grow stronger.

Pain racked my body in those early days, but I got used to the punishment. Struggles develop you. Don’t just think of a physical struggle though. It can also be a mental or emotional struggle that conditions you, challenging you to do and become more. Had you not struggled through; you would simply be back at where you started. It is certainly the easier way, but it is usually less satisfying than pushing through the harder path. When challenged in some way, don’t think about it in terms of the price you pay to get there. Think about who you will become in the process to overcome the challenges. A great satisfaction lies just beyond your struggle. Something deep within us all yearns to be victorious in life. Choose to fight back and you too, will be developed in the struggle.

 

 

Behind these Walls

It’s so close I can almost touch it; freedom that is. It lies just beyond these walls. They started out for my protection, to keep danger from getting too close. On the other side of these walls, the scorching summer heat melts and the extreme cold of winter stings. Downpours of rain showers and drifts of snow have no place here. Unwelcome strangers are denied access. Yes, these walls have their purpose.

But one day someone will come looking for me and stand on the other side of these walls, looking in. They will reach out with their hand to touch mine, but will soon learn of the walls I stand behind. They will see me. They will try to touch me but won’t be able to feel my presence; at least not until they get past the barriers, past these walls. It will take some effort on their part to get past. Timing is critical. If they wait too late into the night, they will miss the open door that is opportunity. The door is always there but not always open. It must be locked to keep out those who seek to do harm. Soon it will be locked again.

Many passed by me on the streets and briedly stopped to take a peek. But when they stood outside looking in, they got a glimpse of the price tag. Unwilling to pay it, they moved on. So many times of this happening broke my heart even further. One day I met the most amazing person who stopped for a chance to see those of us behind the wall. For a moment of time, something inside me called out to something inside them. I thought for sure the walls would disappear. But I was too afraid to come out and they were too afraid to come in. Time stopped long enough to allow us to stare into one another’s eyes. However, we both blinked and in an instant it was over.

Perhaps in their gaze they looked too close and saw things they didn’t like. Not all my stitches are straight. Some of the processes that made me what I am today were harsh and left scars that never fully healed. My clothes are tattered and don’t fit right. My value did not measure up to what they had in mind, so they moved on. I hope they find what they are looking for.

The one who owns the store saw it all happen, the harshness of rejection. He rushed over to me and wrapped his arms around me. He reassured me that all would be ok. At first I didn’t want to believe him. But I trusted him anyway, in spite of my feelings. I asked myself, why stop believing in him now. He was right about everything else. He had every right to discard me like the others did, but he saw value in me that they did not. There is a reason I’m still here on this shelf. One day, someone will come looking. When they see me, they will look past the stitches, past the clothing, and past the scars. They will see the same value the owner of the store did. They will see the price and gladly pay it, even if it means they have to sacrifice.

I know the owner will not let me down. He will do whatever, in his power, to make it happen. All I have to do is be ready for when the day comes when someone takes me home for good. And so, prepared I stand, looking out through these walls. Watching. Waiting. I know you are out there.

Doing it to Myself

There was once a time when I lived in a constant state of hate and anger. The only comfort known was that of an inescapable prison, which felt like my home. It was a false comfort because as familiar as it was, I knew there had to be something else beyond those walls. The sad part of it was, I believed it just wasn’t for me. My heart was overwhelmed by dark thoughts and thoroughly convinced that this was all there was out there for me.

As much pain and suffering that I endured, I felt like I had the right to live on the road to self destruction. Not only were bad things done to me, but also by me, which I deeply regret. In lonely isolation, I pulled away from others, especially anyone that wanted to help me get off this path. It was my right, after all, to do what I wanted. I reasoned, I’m doing it to myself; stay out of my business! I pushed others away, fiercely holding on to my anger as if it were all I had left to hold on to. Everything else was stripped away.

Fortunately, I don’t believe this logic to be true anymore. There are some things we do, to ourselves, while trying to cope with life’s heartaches. But seldom, if ever, does it not affect the life of another. We may not see the impact but that doesn’t mean it does not exist. We simply have no idea the implications our decisions have on the world around us. It’s like the ripple effect by throwing a stone into a pond. It’s impossible not to have a result come from our actions.

A series of events occurs in our lives, one chained to another. Our decisions have a lasting impact, even long after we move on from them. We have no idea the ripple effect that occurs as a result of the stone we throw, even if it’s only at ourselves. What if someone else picked up the same stone and hurt someone with it. We may not have deemed it for that purpose, but nonetheless we have no control over what others do with the stone. Why show the world how to destroy oneself? The world seems to do a good enough job of that on it’s own.

It seemed impossible for me to believe that I deserved a better life, that I deserved freedom. I clung selfishly to anger without regard for anyone else. It was all I knew to survive the times I was living in. A life of self destruction promised me many things, but inside I felt hollow and unsatisfied. Choosing to live that way was one of the most selfish things I had ever done.

Understand that living this sort of lifestyle prevents us from becoming who we were created to be. By choosing to destroy ourselves, it limits our ability to help others. One truth of life is that we are all in this thing together. Many are born and many pass on. It’s what we do with our time here that matters. Whether we make no difference at all or a world of difference, the choice is ours.

Need a Friend

Some time ago, I prayed to God, asking to be used for some particular purpose that day. The day went on and nothing new happened. I left work by early evening and still nothing happened out of the ordinary. I remembered thinking, this is strange; Lord, I really want to be used by you.

Going about my usual routine, the day kept moving forward. I stopped at the store to pick up a few items. It was the kind of store that usually has one clerk, yet they have shopping carts for customers to use. Needless to say, it took quite some time to go through the line. On a side note, every once in a while, I step out of my comfort zone and talk to someone around me in line. Depending on how that goes, I might actually get into an actual conversation. But in this instance, a man behind me was talking to literally anyone around him that would listen. Seeing it as strange behavior, I thought maybe something was wrong with him. But as the clerk was ringing me out, he joked with her and tried to make her laugh. Meanwhile, I paid and took my bags to the car.

While driving home I thought, that poor guy needs a friend. Immediately after saying that, I felt like slapping myself in the forehead. I thought about earlier when I asked God to use me in some way to bless another person that day. But it turned out to come in a different package than I expected and I missed the opportunity. I’m not suggesting every opportunity is ordained by God; therefore caution needs to be exercised. But it made me wonder how many times we miss an opportunity to serve one another because we get wrapped up in ourselves and our problems. I spent so much time waiting for opportunity to come that when it did, I didn’t even recognize it when it was in front of my face.

I’d like to say things have gotten much better since in my approach to reaching out to others. However, that would be wrong. I still get caught in my own bubble and easily forget the people around me. Sometimes, I just need a reminder that people are out there, hurting, and could use a friend. So here is a reminder for all of us, sometimes we all need a friend, so be one.

That’s the Price

The other day, I was shopping at a well known retailer for some supplies. While I walked down the aisles, I added items that were on my list into my shopping cart. After I finished getting what I needed, I walked down another aisle and found an amazing deal on a similar item to the one in my cart. I got it instead, and returned the original item back to where I found it. For those of you who haven’t heard, you are allowed to return unwanted goods to their previous location instead of throwing them on a random shelf.

Anyway, I went to pay for my stuff. When the item rang up, it was nearly seven times less than the price marked on the shelf. Sounds ridiculous, but it only rang up at three cents. I told the associate it was marked at twenty cents. They did their best to correct the price and called for a manager twice for assistance, but no one came. They said I could buy the item and stop by customer service afterwards to dispute the issue. So I paid for everything and got in another line to wait even longer. It amounted to alot of trouble over something small. When I got to the customer service rep, they informed me that whatever price the machine rang up was indeed the price. Even twenty cents seemed too low, but that is what the sign said. As I explained this, I tried to reason with them that three cents for the item was absurd. They told me to let it go and that it was ok for me to be on my way.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy saving money. However, I don’t want it to come at the expense of the employees. The odd pricing was likely due to human error. We all make mistakes and often need mercy. When someone gives too much change back to you, it isn’t a blessing from Heaven above. It’s a mistake that we should try to correct.

The amount should not matter, whether it is a lot or a little. Honesty is not really honesty when you try to shape into something else. We tend to justify things to make ourselves feel better but in truth, when you cross a line it should be obvious. So many things are now measured on a scale that has a thousand iterations between true and false. The temptation is to avoid the truth at all costs because we may not like it.

It can often be a simple decision if we are honest with ourselves and others. Sure, it didn’t make a difference in this case to the store associates. But it did make a difference to me. When I look in the mirror, I don’t question whether I can trust the person looking back at me. If you are not faithful in the little things, you won’t be faithful in the greater things. For the young cashier that is tempted to steal a dollar, if they do so, it sends them down a wrong path. They justify that the store has lots more than they do. Later on, they may go to college and afterwards land a corporate, white collar job. The temptation comes once again, only this time it’s not a dollar. It may be thousands, even millions. They justify its only a little bit from a lot of people who won’t even miss it. But the truth is, they are skimming away money from honest, hardworking people who deserve every penny they earn.

Walking the road of honesty can be slippery and it’s best to never lose your footing in the first place. When you do slip, the tendency is to keep on sliding at increasing rates until you wind up at places you never thought you would go (in a bad way). Do you want to be ripped off, anywhere, any time? Probably not. If you get short changed, would you not demand what is rightfully yours? Then give to others what is rightfully theirs. Even when it’s inconvenient, even when no one else is looking, do the right thing.