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Out of the Mud; On to a Rock.

by

Being married has taught me so much about myself and I love ^ this man more than I did when this photo was taken two years ago. 

Over the last few months I have spent time doing some simple things that I enjoy: singing, lightly exercising, connecting with family and friends, and finally letting go of trying to “be the person I was before” (a person who had become distorted into some kind of utopian fantasy). Don’t get me wrong, I was certainly in great shape back in 2010-2012… but even back then it was never enough. There was a lot more stirring under the surface, and thank God for that prompting to keep searching and keep learning.

Looking at my body now I have sometimes felt like a failure because I “let it slip”, but that’s really not very fair on me (or any of us). Back when I was in my “best” shape I was enjoying “newbie gains”, I was also able to devote most of my free time to exercising and an enormous amount of energy to making the best diet choices and it was an easy thing to maintain because I was still progressing in my training and I honestly had far less trouble with pain. The truth is there are lots of variables I simply took for granted, and emotional stress was one I didn’t factor in. And that’s what worries me now about how we so often look at others, judging and comparing them and their lives verses our own.

You see, I was caught up in the belief that looking fit and being considered a badass by others were the means to *all* ends, so it was the only thing that mattered. I nit-picked my body and my popularity because I thought everything rode on that. What I didn’t realise is those same results (what I thought I needed to show) would reflect a false image of happiness and success. And for a while, that suited me. After all, I liked feeling happy and successful, and admitting my own folly wasn’t even on my radar. What I wanted for my life was freedom and peace, but what I ended up in was a battle with myself and a constant comparison and “prove I’m worthy” game with the world. The desire to *appear* awesome overtook the reality that I am vulnerable to all the same “set-backs”, physically changes, mental illness (depression, and yes, thoughts of suicide), and priority shifts as everybody else. It took an inner-crisis and a lot of time for me to finally see how inconsistently I was living. My early reactions were to grip harder and try to control even more, but the solution came through much more humble methods: I accepted where I was at, I saw what blessings I have, and I let go of the rest. That is when I found air to breathe.

Yes, I am successful, but not for painting a picture of the “got it all together”, but for learning to see life for what it is: messy and raw and something we are all in TOGETHER. Rather than putting on a front and only showing the highlights, why can’t we just be honest when we are in pain, feeling insecure, or not quite sure what to do next?

That’s the freedom I want: freedom to “fail”. Something I have rarely even granted to myself.

The point I am trying to make is that I don’t have it all together (I’m sure this has been clear from my back and fourths online), what I do have is a life that sometimes I enjoy and other times I don’t. I will never be able to control everything, but I can control how I respond or, more importantly, how I reflect on poor responses and seek to understand why I sometimes act in ways contrary to how I want to be. This is where so often I get angry and ashamed at myself for “not being better” and it is *these* thoughts and feelings that I need to address and replace because I can no longer carry the burden of guilt and regret that comes from making a mistake. So often I become “a bad person” instead of just “a person who made a mistake”.

Looking back to how I used to look, it’s easy to see someone who is happy and has a perfect life. Don’t forget, I was also living in a fantasy world, “blissfully” unaware of my own internal contradictions. I was busy ticking boxes about how someone successful, fit and happy should appear; inside I was anything but. I am paradoxically more successful for recognising my own failures and owning them than I ever was for never asking for hard truths from myself. And happiness is not the goal, I think it’s a biproduct of being consistent with who you are and what you believe your purpose is… and perhaps that is called joy, or living through faith. This is what I am now *truly* exploring.

There will still be times when I feel unsure or take wrong turns, like when I consider what’s next for my work, my blog, my body. I don’t know what the thing that will best express my purpose is. All I know is that right now, I want to share stuff and I hope it does some good – it certainly feels good to me when I express it.

Have a wonderful and purposeful day 🙂

 

I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God…” – Psalm 40:1-3

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18 Responses

  1. […] last two updates have discussed more heavy and perhaps difficult subjects: My journey back from depression, and a different look at the fitness goals we set our sights on and my personal realisation about […]

  2. […] last two updates have discussed more heavy and perhaps difficult subjects: My journey back from depression, and a different look at the fitness goals we set our sights on and my personal realisation about […]

  3. Hector Hernandez says:

    I’m sorry for your pains but OUR LORD will continue to carry you!!

  4. Susan ; ) says:

    I am so happy to hear you are doing well. You speak so candidly about your experiences that it is obvious why you have so much support and dedicated readers of your blog. You are like a beacon of light in a dark room, giving hope and warmth to people who are struggling with this idea of perfection. If we were all truthful with ourselves we could admit we all strive a little bit to be seen in society as perfect or successful. It has taken me a long time but like you, I have had to retrain my thought patterns and realise that I am actually doing better than OK. I do not NEED to be perfect, I WILL make mistakes. It is how we handle this and learn from our mistakes that sets us apart. As long as we give our best to ourselves and the people around us then this is what should be the measure of happiness, perfection and success. I am learning that I should hold no guilt for not being perfect and gracefully accept it for what it is, learn and grow from it and as long as I can stand up and honestly say I am doing my best, there isn’t any more I can do then that’s as successful as I need to be. Thank you for letting us into your life and helping so many people in the process. Sometimes we forget about the beauty of the stars whilst we contemplate the universe. Take care, susan xxx

  5. Scarlett says:

    What a wonderful post. I wonder if you can elaborate on how you are learning to accept these things & view them more positively? I, too, struggle with emotional & psychological problems that often effect how I view myself as a person as well as my physical appearance. I suffer from borderline personality disorder & bipolar II. I use exercise as a means for handling stress & help regulating my moods. However, exercise & fitness can very easily turn into a problem area if I’m feeling depressed or suffering from a bout of low self esteem-then I see myself as not strong/fast/lean enough adding stress rather than alleviating.

    Thank you for sharing. I know it’s deeply personal. I, too, have suicidal thoughts from time to time & know how hard it is to say that out loud. It’s strange but I think I feel such a connection w/ your blog over other fitness blogs I follow because you’re a whole person, a real human w/ a myriad of feelings, flaws, goals, achievements.

    Keep up the good fight.

    • Marianne says:

      Thank you for your comment, Scarlett. I am glad that this post has resonated with you. While it pains me that you suffer this way at times, it comforts me to see you share it and that I am not alone in how I have felt at times.

      To answer your question, I think it has been a combination of many things, some automatic things that time has allowed, lots of seeking and then being still from me, and actively resisting the negative thoughts that try to creep in. Normally, I would entertain such thoughts and feel the burden and stress that came with them. Now I send them packing and call them out for the lies they are. It was really hard to do that at first, but it really helps. Another thing that has helped is being at my worst and trying to understand why I have got so low, so angry, so hopeless. Reaching out and allowing myself to rely on someone else (I tend to keep my real troubles to myself) has been a God-send! My mum has this big beautiful painting that hung above our fireplace when I was growing up and it is of a fishing boat caught in a storm. Then there is a Bible verse printed on it: “Cast your care for He careth for you”. That’s what I started to do. Even if you don’t believe in God, it still does us good to share our problems and let go of the things we can’t control anyway.

      Finally, I try to remember the bigger picture. This last while, I literally feel like I just walked out of a dark forest into a beautiful meadow. For months I was walking around in that forest focusing on every tree I bumped into and I saw the shadows as monsters. I forgot that beyond the forest was beauty and if I allowed myself I could even be thankful for being in that forest. It was bringing me somewhere new and beautiful. Part of “the bigger picture” for me is being grounded in purpose, being fit for purpose and sharing these ups and downs because I know in my heart that it brings peace, hope, and connection/compassion (a kind of love).

      I hope that makes sense.

  6. Ingrid P says:

    Dear Mariane,

    Good on you! It’s great to have a nice, body, just as it is to have a nice “taken care of” house, car etc.. But it’s just the vessel. I’m glad you have decided on your priorities and not to be so hard on yourself. I’m new to youe blog and I can see that the participants are likeminded. It was great reading all the back and forth. Good for the soul.

  7. Marissa says:

    I love your raw honesty. I have always loved that about your posts and life has gotten in the way of me keeping up with the internet.

    I find myself in your same shoes as well…I am ALWAYS comparing my body to how it was before I had children. Now that I’ve fallen off the wagon, I recognize that a few months ago I was looking pretty good for “a mom”. Even now, being in not so good shape, I am able to see that because I have worked out for the majority of my 37 years of life, I still look pretty darn good.

    My perspective on a daily basis has become on focusing on other success, like having a “good” day with my children. In my mind because that isn’t physically measurable, it hasn’t held the same standards as seeing physical gains because of my commitment to diet and exercise.

    As I get older, I thank God for wisdom and putting the things that are really important into perspective…even though I will always long to look like I did in my 20’s, it isn’t a requirement anymore. And I always remember, God is good, All the time and All the time, God is good.

    Stay strong!

  8. Michele says:

    Great blog post! I am guilty very often of comparing my body and my physical capabilities with others and letting the green eyed monster take over. A few years ago, I had a multilevel cervical spinal fusion. I however tried my hardest to push myself as I did before surgery. Not my brightest move. Then it all changed Novemeber 2014 when my 26 year old brother died. I completely derailed. I could have cared less about exercising, about what I ate or how I looked. I was buried in my grief. A dark place to be. It’s also a place I haven’t completely left. Not that long ago I took a good long hard look at myself and felt disgusted by how much I let myself go. I felt like I didn’t measure up to how I thought I should be. I’m only beginning to let some of it go. I’m human. I’m imperfect but my goal is to create a balance that I’m happy with and one that works well for my husband and children too. I’m trying to accept that I can be healthy, fit and happy without going to extremes. It’s time to focus on all that I can do, not what I can’t and all that I do have and not what I don’t. I’m certainly not always successful in that way of thinking but I’m trying. I really like the saying “Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will.”

    • Marianne says:

      I am so sorry about your brother, Michele. What a terrible loss. That quote is awesome and so applicable here. But as we know, when you are in the thick of it, you feel like you have no control over anything and you see no hope of things getting better. The fact that the quote helps you now is a good sign that you see thing getting better and you have purpose <3

  9. Rosie says:

    Marianne ~ I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your honesty and admire you for putting your true thoughts, feelings, and revelations out there.

    I’m someone who has always been into fitness and health, maybe a little too much at times. Last September my world was rocked by a serious health issue. Since then, my focus has shifted in ways you can only imagine. For the time being, I’m focusing on getting my health back (scary thing is I never felt bad – who knew?). My husband and I are committed to living in the moment, appreciating every day, every moment. The shape of my bum or the definition in my arms has taken a back burner. I no longer stress about every single ingredient in my food (since doing so for over a decade didn’t seem to matter!) I focus on what brings me joy and pleasure. I wish it hadn’t taken such dire circumstances to make me realize that I’d been sweating the small stuff for so many years. Better late than never. 🙂

  10. Tracey says:

    I always love your writing & how real you are 🙂 xoxo

  11. Ann says:

    Hi Marianne, I’ve never written before but feel I need to say something this time. I’ve recently been through a marital separation (probably the hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my life). You touched me when you wrote about wanting to have that picture of having it all together and not allowing ourselves the freedom to fail. I get you! I too have made some bad choices in my life and instead of accepting them and moving on I’ve been blaming myself, blaming my ex, trying to make sense of why things happen the way they do instead of just letting go, accepting and learning from the experience. Anyway thanks for this post…you’re right happiness is not the goal…it is indeed the by-product of being consistent with who you are and accepting that some days are better than others. On those bad days know that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel…there’s always hope for something better…that’s the light…the hope!

    • Marianne says:

      Hi Ann,

      What an immensely difficult time you are facing. I am so sorry for the emotional turmoil you must be experiencing. I hope that you can walk in freedom from the chains that wish to keep you captive and that you have peace. Healing is so important and sometimes that comes from being still and waiting, rather than trying too much.

      <3

  12. Liz says:

    Sometimes a good author holds up a mirror and reflects back to us the thoughts and feelings that have swirled about in our own minds and spirits lately. You have definitely been that good author for me today with this entry. 🙂 This is quote-worthy: “I am paradoxically more successful for recognising my own failures and owning them than I ever was for never asking for hard truths from myself.” I LOVE this statement! How wonderfully freeing it is to recognize our own failures, to be honest about them, and begin to accept them. And then to realize that much of the time, once they’re out in the light of day, they’re not even all that awful to admit! Sometimes, they weren’t even failures, just slip-ups or setbacks. The truth sets us free, and so does letting ourselves (including what we perceive as the bad stuff) live in the light. As my great-grandparents used to say, “God’s law is not man’s law.” Great blog post, seriously! 😀

    • Marianne says:

      Absolutely! When we bring things into the light the fear and shame can no longer get us. I heard a quote recently:

      “Fear says, “how?”; Faith says, “God!”

      Thank you!

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