The Promise of Tomorrow

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I’ve been in Cape Breton this last week promoting the book  (Fat Man Walking) and the events we’ve been holding and the weight loss support groups I have been speaking to have given me so much to write about.  I’ve been lucky to have had a whole network of support – many of them strangers (at first) – who have been rooting for me since I started this challenge two years ago.  I feel like the release of the book has amplified that tenfold.  I’m getting messages every day from all across the country as people share their struggles, ask questions, and get me thinking.  It’s been a very rewarding few days and now that we’ve been given the green light on a second print run I hope there’s more speaking and touring in my future.

Still, on this go-around I’ve talked to dozens of people who are setting themselves up for failure by putting conditions on their commitment to living a healthy life.

“I’ll start walking again when the snow is gone.”
“I was waiting to give up pop for lent.”
“I want to get off the smokes for a few months before I start doing anything new.”
“I’m going to start at the gym when my husband gets home from Alberta”

When I first started working with people, helping them identify the habits that are getting in the way of their success, I didn’t know what to say to people who offered these excuses with a straight face.  On this trip home, I figured it out.

My Dad’s death plays an important role in my story.  It wasn’t my lowest point, my rock bottom, or even my heaviest weight – but it is my constant reminder that choosing to live an unhealthy life is choosing to live a shortened life.  Certainly, at the very least, shorter than those who love you most wish for you.

Coming home is hard.  Staying in the house he built is hard.  It didn’t feel this hard when I moved back in after his death, but now everything I look at is a reminder of him.  Some of that is welcome.  Some of that is like sensory overload and emotionally draining.

On Friday I found the notebook he had in his front shirt pocket when he took a heart attack and died putting in a basement window of our house in Glace Bay.

Jim McNeil was a creature of routine.  My whole life he organized his work week – jobs, supplies, the hours and pay of crew – all of it was kept in these little notebooks.  Some of my fondest memories are of my mom and dad sitting together at the kitchen table at the end of a work day as she tried to decipher his chicken-scratch writing in to notes he’d actually keep tucked away neatly in a binder.

Flipping through the pages of this notebook I found that my Dad had laid out the full week of August 9 – 13, 2010.  He was was counting on those days.  There were jobs he was going to start.  People he was going to call.  Supplies he was going to order.  These were the plans of a man who was counting on a full week.

He didn’t get it.  He died  just after noon on Tuesday, August 12, 2010.  The rest of his notepad is blank.

Here’s the lesson.  You shouldn’t need any outside motivation to make the changes you seek.   You should start now because you may not have the chance to start when you want.  You aren’t calling all the shots.  It’s not how life works.

If he knew this notepad was the blueprint for his final days, what else would have been put in there? What would he have made time for? What changes would he have made?  Where would he have invested his time and energy?

I can’t answer those questions for him but I certainly can for me.   If today was the last day in your notepad, would you be happy with how it went? Would you be pissed at yourself for putting something off to some unknown date – like when the summer comes, when your husband comes back form out west, or when you quit smoking. Did you do what you need to do for you today? Honestly, was today a full-life day?

The greatest motivator to get started right now? That’s easy.  This might be your last chance to start. Now.

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