This is my entry for Week Seven of The Real LJ Idol competition, where the topic is "Hope." I'll post an update about voting later in the week. If you haven't already, you may want to join therealljidol, since some voting will be restricted to community members. Thanks so much to everyone who has voted for me so far!
Me at New Year's 2000
As I labored up the steps, panting, my new puppy wriggled in my hands impatiently. I considered passing her off to my sister, who was bouncing ahead of me, talking excitedly. The problem was, she was already carrying two puppies: her own and the one we had claimed for Mom. Besides, I was embarrassed to admit that I was having so much trouble.
We had driven across the country with friends, from Pennsylvania to Colorado, to celebrate New Year's 2000 with my brother and his then-fiancee. My brother's dog, Pulsar, had given birth in October, and we had agreed to adopt some of her pups.
My brother lived in Leadville, 10,430 feet above sea level, and he'd warned us the thinner air would take some adjusting. But we'd been there for a couple days now, and I was the only one still suffering. The regular trips with our puppies up and down the apartment stairs posed a challenge. Even walking around town was difficult. I had to admit: I simply wasn't healthy.
While I'd always gone up and down in terms of weight, for the last five years I'd gone only one direction: up. In fact, when I did the mental calculations, I realized with a shock that I'd gained almost 50 pounds just in the past couple years. What would happen to me if I continued this route? What would life be like if I couldn't climb the steps in my Pennsylvania apartment? How would I take care of a dog? How would I even take care of myself?
I resolved at that moment, I had to change. And this time, I wouldn't just go on a diet. I would change my life.
The first step, the hardest part, was to tell those who were close to me. Even though I knew they saw the same person I saw in the mirror every day, as long as nobody mentioned it out loud, I could pretend I was still the energetic person I'd been a decade ago. Yet, I knew I needed their support if I was going to change. Too long, I'd used food as a substitute for dealing with difficult emotions. It was time to face up to them.
My opportunity arose when my sister and I grabbed some coffee together at a little shop downtown. I mustered up my courage and told her, "I've decided I have to change my life. I have to get healthy." Tears welled up in my eyes as I admitted that I still couldn't get my breath in this thin air. I couldn't wear regular pants, only ones with elastic waistlines. I didn't even recognize my own face in the mirror.
After soothing me, my sister said, "I'm glad you said something. I could see how unhappy you were, but I didn't want to make you feel bad by bugging you." We talked about what I could do: simple things, like cutting back on portion sides and opting for healthy snacks instead of candy bars. I resolved to exercise more and eat more fruits and vegetables. Somehow, having my sister's support made everything seem possible.
I didn't know then that those little steps would expand into greater accomplishments, and over the next eight years, I would lose 80 pounds and six dress sizes. Or that, with my newfound self-esteem, I would break off a self-destructive relationship and eventually seek a counselor to work on my mental health, as well.
A couple days later, we all celebrated New Year's Eve at a friend's cabin, gathered around a bonfire, gazing at the stars and telling Y2K jokes. Near the end of the evening, some of the guys even ran through the smouldering fire, in a mad celebration of new beginnings. It was the turn of the millennium, and I was filled with hope.
The first step is the hardest, but it's worth it.