Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Like most of us, it's easier for me to see my own flaws than my good qualities. My whole life, I've been teased about being too skinny. While that is probably true, I see things a bit differently. I see my sagging chest and a little roll to my gut. And most of all, I see my lack of chin definition. For my entire life, I've seen this as "Who I Am". I never saw any of that as something that I could change. I even tried to convince myself that I was accepting " who I am ".

You see, it was programmed into me at a very young age. First, came the food. We learn to eat what our parents feed us. We form habits and preferences before we even know it. I had food allergies from an early age as well that helped to form my self image.

And activity plays a key roll in it all too. I've always been pretty active. But never considered myself physical. Friends and family reinforced the thoughts that I had of myself. I would have no fear to try something new. But was always dismissed when I wasn't very good at it. One winter, I remember trying ice skating and found that my ankles kept rolling to the side and I couldn't stand up. I was told that my ankles were weak and was given a pair of double-bladed training skates. Well, that only brought on teasing from the neighborhood kids. I decided that I would rather never ice skate again, than to be picked on for having funny looking skates.
My sister was always athletic. She's the type that wanted to play baseball with the boys rather than be stuck playing softball with the girls. Mom always backed her on any of the athletic challenges that she decided to tackle. I was tagged along, told to sit quietly and cheer her on. I did play little-league baseball for a couple of years. I was always the one that was stuck in right field and never allowed to shine. I ended up hating baseball, still do. After being teased relentlessly, one practice, I swung the bat and hit the ball over the fence. I then dropped the bat and walked home over a mile. No one could believe it and my mother asked me why I played if I didn't like it. But I felt forced to do it. Forced to live up to the example being set for me by my older siblings.

In High School, I decided that this skinny kid would be great at swimming. So, I tried out for the swim team. I won't pretend that I was all that great. But everyone seemed to look up to me for the first time in my life. I stuck with swimming for over a year. But I always felt, less important than my other siblings. Mainly because no one from my family ever showed up to watch me race. Not one! I eventually quit that and never looked back. Many years later, I asked my mother why she never came to see me swim. She said, "When were you on the swim team?" But, in her defense, she underwent a major heart surgery,  the year I was on the team. Still, I was a developing young man with no support from home.

I'm not telling you all of this to have you feel sorry for me. I'm not telling you this because it's who I am. I am telling you this because it's who I used to be. In the years following the deaths of my parents, I have struggled with finding who I am. Many people go through something similar. Working in the funeral business, I thought I understood what people went through after the loss of a loved one. I was wrong!

I have emerged the other side of this fog known as grief, a stronger man. Stronger mentally and physically. I have redefined who I am. I used to joke that I was the fattest skinny guy ever. I wasn't fat, I know that. I was out of shape. My upbringing taught me to accept who I was without question. But never once did I stop to ask myself who that was. I now have found my voice. I've found my inner self. I no longer look at something and think "I can't". Because, I can! I can do anything I desire.

I have trimmed down and toned up. Sure, I've lost a little weight. But I've gained so much more. I've gained confidence, pride, and self respect. I've let go of feelings that were holding me back and welcomed challenges that push me further than I ever imagined.
Life is meant to live. It's meant to explore. My advice to anyone reading this, is to find out who you are, and be you. Who ever you are, no one else can do it better than you can. Some say that life is hard. It's not. Some say life is easy. It's not. Some say life is lonely, tricky or a test. It's not.

Life is only a reflection. A reflection of whatever you say and do. Did you ever think, "What if this is all a dream and someday I will wake up"? Well, what if it is? What if you have the ability to steer this dream any way you like? Well, you do. I do. 


MorningAJ said...

It's great that you are feeling stronger physically and mentally. It's tough that you had to lose two parents to be able to start the process. I understand what you've been through. I was never able to feel proud of anything I did because of my mother's attitude to me when I was young. I won't go into what and when. It's not important any more.
What I WILL say is that I've found you to be a warm, kind, funny man and I think that's more important than your height, weight, body shape, strength level or any other physical quality. Do what's right for you and be true to yourself. That's what really matters.

Jim said...

Yes Stew, it is good that you are now able to be who you are with no outside pressure to be someone you re not.
Sometimes it takes a long while to realize this and be comfortable doing it.
Growing up has a lot of pressures from parents and friends and we feel obliged to do what everyone else does.
At least you made the baseball team! I didn't!! They only picked the best back then. And my father was a ball player! But I survived and look back with amusement.
Happy spring!

laurak/ForestWalkArt :) said...

very nice post stew. personal. insightful. i can understand...much of what you say.
i have lost both parents (AND even harder on me, was losing my only brother & sister too). i may have come out of all this stronger too...but also sadder...and harder.
i was a tomboy as a kid. pretty athletic...but NEVER a good skater because MY ANKLES were WEAK too!! i was a loner. never had the self confidence...self worth. not a 'happy' homelife...which i was adopted into. has taken me YEARS to find ME. i still have a little trouble...i think it's a forever search!
have a happy weekend stew!