Cleaning Out My Past, Losing 100lbs, and Other Impossible Things
When I opened up the door to my storage unit, I knew two things: The first was that I was tired of paying money for things I didn’t want. When I moved following a job change and a divorce, I moved into a 400 sq foot apartment. It was a blessing at the time, and gave me space to heal. But I was certain it was temporary. 5 years and $5100 in storage fees later, I was done. But I just did that math, so holy $#!*— there aren’t even words. File that under: it seemed like a good idea at the time. Also: Do NOT do that again.
The second thing I knew for sure was that cleaning it out was going to be impossible. I’d moved from a large house with many furnished rooms and wasn’t ready to part with everything, so I stored all of it. A full bedroom suite; a dining room suite including china cabinet and sideboard; a baker’s rack; an artist table; a quilting table; and boxes that I swear must have multiplied. Boxes of good things and boxes of bad memories. Just to paint you a picture, it was a 10x15 storage unit— and it was full. I’m talking stacked to the ceiling, thanks to some very efficient movers.
The first time or two I went by there, I’m not sure I accomplished anything except staring in awe… and terror. I didn’t know what to do, so I didn’t do anything. It was sheer overwhelm. But I realized the rocking chair would look nice on my porch, and it was near the front. So I took it home. That cleared a path to the bakers rack, so I loaded that in my car next. That cleared some space so that I could get to some boxes, so I came back and loaded as many as I could take into my SUV. And finally, there was a least a dent. As I moved a few things, I realized I could get to more things. I sold big pieces of furniture, and took loads to goodwill. I climbed on things, and unstacked other things. I’m excited to be starting 2020 with that off my brain, because it’s been nagging at me for a long time. I kept putting it off because it was too much to even think about— so I kept doing what was comfortable: paying to store it. But really, that wasn’t even a bit comfortable. It just felt easier than doing the work. With the exception of a few things that I couldn’t manage on my own, I handled everything by myself, so you know, I gave myself badass points. I feel accomplished for not only having dealt with the nagging monster, but also for having worked at it myself.
What I realized as I made trip after trip over the course of five weeks, is that the process is a lot like trying to get healthy. When I was 250 pounds, I felt nothing but despair and overwhelm as I thought about the 100 (minimum!) extra pounds I was carrying. I thought about my knees that made me cry, and my bad back, and my asthma, and my complete lack of energy. I thought about my job, which seemed to require a lot of social eating. I thought about my husband at the time, and how by the end of things, all we had together was a love of food. (Expensive food, too. Where is the eye roll emoji when you need it?) Despite trying every silly diet, and TV advertised program, I really believed I was too far gone to ever be able to do what needed to happen— at least without resorting to some sort of surgery. I mean, when you can’t even change a shower curtain without having to rest three times, what options are there?
But when I moved to a new town and took a new job, I’d made a decision that taking care of my body was going to be a priority. In a stroke of what I still absolutely consider divine intervention, I became friends with a truly excellent trainer. He started training me in my basement with 5 and 8lb dumbbells, because I was too embarrassed to go to the gym. My first workout lasted twelve minutes, and it was a scene of “stick a fork in her, she’s done!” I couldn’t squat my own body weight more than a few inches, but that’s where we started. All I can say about those first couple of months is that I kept showing up— though that was probably only because my trainer was my friend first, and he wouldn’t let me quit. Gradually, I got stronger and my workouts lasted longer. I eventually become less self conscious and started training at the gym. Little by little, my trainer taught me about nutrition. Finally, I had enough pieces of the puzzle that I could start making some sense out of them.
Within three years, I’d lost 100lbs— and was doing things I never imagined, like doing ATG (butt to grass) squats with more than my body weight on the bar and dead-hang chin ups. I’ve kept the weight off, and these days I’m a Master Certified Trainer that helps other people do their own impossible things. When people ask me about my journey, I tell them the truth: it was never hard in the ways I thought it would be. It wasn’t only chicken and broccoli, nor was it hours of workouts I wasn’t really capable of doing. The thing that was hard was to keep showing up, even when I was over it or was stuck.
Cleaning out the storage unit reminded me of the truth behind some needlepoint worthy sayings: “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they worked on it every day” and “A river cuts through a rock, not because of its power but because of its persistence.” Every time I went, even if I only moved one thing, that made a way for me to deal with another thing. The same is true for taking care of bodies, and making lasting transformations. Start where you are, and work on one thing. As you can do more, do more. As you’re ready for new habits, adopt them.
That’s the secret to doing impossible things. As the expression goes, “How do you eat an elephant? One bit at a time.” But the part that people forget to say is that you have to get out of your comfort zone and make up your mind to do it, no matter what. You have to set down your overwhelm, and do the thing. And probably, once you do, and you start handling the one thing right in front of you and making space for other things, you’ll look back and say “Gosh, I should have done that so much sooner. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be.”
Stop thinking about it. Stop talking yourself out of it. Just do the thing. Do the impossible thing. Sometimes, it turns out to be easier than worrying about doing the impossible thing.