i'm gonna stay strong

Last week, between preparing for her departure back to China and meeting with other friends and seeing family, I sat down to have lunch with a close friend. We met in China. It was a quick initial meeting as we were on two separate teams, but with the help of knowing the same people, her going to the same college, and then her joining my sorority for a semester, we became close. So close that I honestly don't think I would have survived my senior year of college without her.

She was there when I started dating all the wrong boys. She was there when I struggled with knowing who I was now that I was home from a life-changing trip. She was there during a time when I wasn't really there for anyone else. She prayed with me and held my hand when I needed it most. She also hugged me and let me cry when certain things became too much.

And she made me laugh. She also bought me meals at the university cafeteria. She was also there the night I hit a deer with my car.

And then she was there when I got married. She ate lunch with me at the Cheesecake Factory and stayed through the entire ceremony and reception.

We kept in touch after my wedding, but life after college changes everything. So while I navigated the life of working full-time, being married, and eventually buying a house, she continued with her senior year of college and learning where God was placing her.

He placed her back in China. And while it is hard to have her gone, even though we hardly see each other because of life (but at least she was always in the state!), I know she is exactly where she needs to be. Also, she thankfully is able to visit Oklahoma during the summer and catch up with friends and family.

We met at Cheddar's. I ordered a top sirloin and two sides of broccoli. She ordered a salad (that I couldn't eat due to it having fruit). And we settled into easy conversation - catching up on the last several months of our lives but more importantly focusing on the current times.

I started to write about our lunch that day. I formed sentences about how God places people into our lives. I tied it into finishing Working It Out by Abby Rike. But the words never seemed quite right, and I can't publish anything that seems forced. So I gave it time and dappled it in some but never got the words just right.

During lunch, we talked about my blog. I never know how to react when my blog and writing are brought up. It's hard to know if I should be self-depricating (which is what I usually do) or simply smile and say "thank you." She told me how she appreciated my honesty. I talked about how honesty is hard. I said sometimes I don't want to be so honest because I'm afraid people don't want to read honest words but would rather focus on happy words and funny stories.

I'm not the best at being funny. I try to tell jokes, and I say the punch line before I finish the joke. I don't always get jokes that others tell. And not being serious in my writing is something I can't seem to do well for the life of me.

So I turn to honesty. And honesty so often takes a toll on me. It leaves my heart open for the world. And it also results in a lot of back and forth - days of being positive and then days of being negative. Just thinking about honesty exhausts me.

But this honesty is who I am. Whether it is pretty or ugly. Whether anyone wants to read it or not. No matter how much of a contradiction I might be from one day to the next it is who I am as a writer and as a person.

I needed to hear that the honesty was appreciated on that day. I needed to remember that it doesn't matter what others think or like. I needed to sit across the table from a friend who gets it and feel accepted.

My honesty for today is simple. I am struggling. I shouldn't be. But I am.

It's a culmination of boredom with food choices (phase 1 of the South Beach Diet is restrictive and so is my budget and cooking repetoire) and a few other things. And this culmination resulted in me having a hamburger and tater tots from Sonic on Wednesday night. It also resulted in eating Jimmy John's on Thursday for lunch and having nothing but string cheese for dinner that night. And then I went to bed before 9pm on Thursday night because all I wanted to do was eat ice cream, shells and cheese, and anything that came from almost any fast food restaurant. So I fell asleep instead.

I've lost a total of 25 pounds now. I started South Beach Diet and lost 4 pounds in one week. This came after having gained back about three pounds due to poor choices. And then this week, even with not holding true to phase 1, I lost 1.4 pounds. I should be ecstatic and proud - only ecstatic and proud.

But I'm not just ecstatic and proud. I'm exhausted and tired and sick of healthy foods (especially eggs and broccoli). I'm questioning myself and if I can really do this. I'm finding it harder to be positive about my own journey and others journey. I'm hitting another wall.

Still, I refuse to give up. I might gain a pound or two back. I might give up on the exact phase of a diet. I might take more than just one day off from exercising. But I will not give up. And I will repeat that to myself as much as I have to (just as I count the minutes down on the elliptical when it seems impssible to finish even just 20 minutes of cardio).

At lunch last week, I was told I have a lot of determination. I felt strong after that comment. And then I finished reading Working It Out and felt even stronger. I felt like God was putting all these pieces together just for me. Had all those pieces not been put together I think my week would have consisted on more than just hamburgers and sandwiches.
Each and every person reading these pages is doing so because you are supposed to be reading these pages at this exact moment in your life. You need to know you are empowered by your ability to choose. You are not defined by past mistakes. Waste not another moment beating yourself up about the past. Feeling guilty serves no purpose. Today is a new day. --Abby Rike, Working It Out
I will not define myself by past mistakes. I will also not define myself by future mistakes. Because although I have had weak moments, I have also had moments of strengths. I have seen my hard work pay off. I have been reminded that it is all worth it.

I finished the book on Saturday sitting on the stationary bicycle and peddling my legs quickly. I finished the book after spending several hours at home and convincing myself that I needed to go to the gym. And I finished the book because I needed to read her words and apply them to my own life.

It's been a week of realizations. Knowledge that this time is the time because God decided it was time and has put everything into place so that I can do nothing on my own to mess it up. He has given me the resources I need. He is providing the inspiration I need. He is giving me strength when I feel weak. He is giving me determination when I am lacking.

And right now I am lacking. I am not lacking as much as I was last night, but still, I am lacking. And He is providing through Bible verses and quotes. He is reminding me of lunches with friends that fill me up. He is showingme that He is present even though I feel alone and want to give up. He is telling me that He won't let me give up.

(title from "the living proof" by mary j. blige)

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