The last few months have been a whirlwind of emotion and experiences for me. I have gone from the highs of being selected for NBC’s The Voice to the lows of holding my fathers hand as he lay dying. I’m lost in all of the external, I feel like a kid standing in the shallows at the beach who has been knocked down by a wave, and every time that I start to catch my feet and my breath a new wave rolls me over sometimes lifting me high above the surf and other times pushing me under and spinning me around. Through all of this tumult I have found myself turning inward and reexamining my center. In the past I have turned to food and booze to lift up my spirits, I would try to wade my way out of the fray with just a guitar and a pen, but in the last few years I have learned how to plant my feet through hard exercise as well. I have made a small shift in the way that I see myself and it has allowed me to ride through those highs and lows with a sense of calm.
Up until a few years ago I was a “Big Guy”. I am over 6’ tall and I tended to weigh in between 220-240 lbs., I wore a big beard from time to time, and I walked around with a “Big Guy” swagger. It took me a long time to realize that “Big Guy” was a self descriptor that I had created and that description was a major influence on how I went through life. I ate like a “Big Guy”, I drank like a “Big Guy”, I prided myself on my stature and being slightly intimidating with it, thought I never had really thought about it consciously. “Big Guy” was the mental structural construct that I had created to keep myself from facing some of my basic fears of the world around me. Being a “Big Guy” allowed me to feel a false sense of calm in what I saw as a loud and dangerous world. It occurred to me to look for this structural construct one day when I was practicing a form of meditation that I call “Why?”, where I treat my thought like I am a three year old kid, when I find something in my mind that feels raw and that I instinctively shy away from thinking about I continually ask why and try to look for the answers that lay many layers under my instinctive reactionary answers. On this particular day I was wondering why I have always fought with my weight since my youth and through my mental drilling I wound up with an understanding of how my interior self-image completely effected my outward physicality.
I found myself with a realization that I saw myself in a way that wasn’t optimal and that lead to a new, more important question. If I was to decide who or what I wanted to be, what would I choose? This question opened up the world to me, it offered me a chance to start over and design myself through conscious thought rather than a long series of protective reactions to perceived threats that often didn’t really exist. “A Healthy Guy” was the answer that I came up with. I didn’t just mean it physically, but mentally as well, and I decided that from that moment on I would build myself around a new self identity that I would create as an adult who had a choice.
Running and a healthier diet became a part of my life the day after I made the decision to be a “Healthy Guy”, and not because I felt like they were a path that would get me to some distant goal, in fact the dissolving of a clear goal was a major part of this transformation that I went through, but because they were activities that a “Healthy Guy” would do. I began to be aware of what and where I was eating. When I would go into a restaurant I would look around, if the tables were filled with unhealthy people I would turn around and leave. I began to go to the gym all of the time and when I thought about stopping whatever exercise I was working on I would push just a little harder and longer because that is what a healthy person would do. The results were dramatic and life changing.
Within six months I lost around 50 lbs. and went from a size 40 waist to a 32. I went from not being able to run around the block without walking and panting to running six miles at a whack, I have since gone on to run in a number of half-marathons and other similarly distanced races. You see, it takes movement to lead to improvement, but that movement isn’t just physical, it is a mental shift that has to happen first. I have tried dozens of diets throughout my life and none of them kept the weight off because I was a “Big Guy” wearing a “Healthy Guy” costume for a while, the trick is to become the thing that you want to be from the inside and the outside will follow.
I don’t write this to brag about weight loss, but rather to encourage other people to try to find the core of themselves and question how that core came to be. My small realization and change has allowed me to make it through these times when I am battered by the barrage of life, both good and bad, it has created a place where I feel safe and centered in the harshest storm. Now when I am feeling the weight of life, I lace up my shoes and I run. When I get home I pick up the pen and I write, and it is then that I am able to talk from my center and tell my truth, all of the fears that would keep me from it have been burned away one step at a time.
If anyone else out there fights through this same stuff and would like any encouragement from a guy who has been there let me know. It’s always hard until it isn’t.