Over seventeen years ago, I came to the starting conclusion that I needed to take a little break. I surmised that I would need to go it alone during this respite. That prospect would not be particularly fun or inviting. But, yet, challenging as it would be, this layoff was absolutely necessary for my personal progress. This self imposed sabbatical could conceivably be life changing. Sadly, I would not be traveling to far away lands to walk in the footsteps of the ancients. I would not be hiking some lush green hillsides or strolling through meadows filled with wonderful fragrances. I wouldn’t be skiing in the beautiful mountain West nor relaxing on a white, sandy beach in the South. No, this adventure would not bring me face-to-face with any natural wonders of the world. Heck, I would not even be taking off on that much desired golf vacation. So, what exactly did I desperately need a separation from, you ask?
Brace yourselves. Food! Yes, you read correctly. F-O-O-D. Let’s be clear on this. I am not talking about all food, and I most certainly was not going to subject myself to a hunger strike. While fasting once a month for a couple of meals can bring both physical cleansing and spiritual enlightenment, that was not the nature of my pursuit. I knew precisely what I wanted to accomplish. I would have to distance myself from those things which tempted me to choose poorly as it related to my D.I.E.T. At the time, I did not have any idea how long I would spend “away” from certain foods. I did recognize that this split was serious. If I was ever going to be able to enjoy them again, I had to “break up” immediately with some of the foods I loved the most. I was undisciplined and not capable of a healthy, long-term relationship with those foods. Well, it will come as no surprise to you to find out that pizza and ice cream would be near the top of my list of favorite ex’s. However, the greatest temptation and my biggest obstacle could take many forms. It would be my very own Mom’s incredible tasty delicacies. Mom could have opened her own bakery. To this day, I have not sampled a pie, cheesecake, strudel, or other mouth-watering dessert which could rival my Mom’s home-made offerings. What was I to do? How could I say “no” to her? Maybe, I didn’t have to.
I figured out a way to stay faithful to my plan and not disappoint my Mom at the same time. I would simply request a take out order for dessert whenever I stopped over to eat at Mrs. Drumm’s Kitchen. I would then share all of those wonderful goodies with others. I began by putting some of the treats in my freezer, but very quickly realized that I could not afford to have them anywhere within my reach. So, my Mom’s bakery goods made the rounds among my co-workers, neighbors, golf buddies, friends, and on a few occasions, my students. What a bad son! What a terrible trainer! No, not at all. I was completely happy with my decisions. I pleased my Mom. She put so much time, effort, and love into her made from scratch creations. I miss the amazing smells coming from her kitchen. I am confident that she never had any idea I was redistributing her dessert excesses. Because I never slapped a huge piece of cheesecake down in front of someone I was training who was having his or her own struggles, I never had reason to feel guilty about sharing with anyone. I never forced it upon anyone. Of course, we all have our free agency or the ability to choose for ourselves and not to be acted upon. Not surprisingly, though, not a single soul ever said “no” to my simple invitation to try my Mom’s baking.
When I started out on this part of my journey, I didn’t set an arbitrary end date. I only knew that I needed to become the master of myself. I believed that I should and could control my urges when temptation is nigh. I understood that while complete manipulation of the people or environment around me was going to be highly unlikely, I needed to learn to make the best choices possible under every circumstance. Every decision I made going forward would matter and would have lasting significance.
One may not be able to see the outcome of a single, seemingly insignificant choice immediately, but the cumulative effect of similar, small decisions can become very obvious over time. And, indeed, this was the case with me. With each small victory in my daily battle against the natural man within me, I noticed an increased capacity to continue improving. It is such a beautiful experience in life to be able to see and feel the progress we make. As time passed, I gained confidence in my ability to pay no heed to those things which were once so difficult for me to avoid. In fact, those trouble making foods began to lose their appeal to me altogether. I became a different man as I diligently and faithfully adhered to the plan no matter what I encountered along the way. I no longer needed the things which I had previously thought were so necessary to my happiness. I reconnected with the only true source of lasting peace and comfort. I am grateful for the strength beyond my own which I received to endure the challenges in my journey.
Believe it or not, my temporary break lasted seven years! It could have continued ’til this very day. I am able to eat pizza now. I enjoy it more than ever, because I have it so infrequently. I can eat it slower and savor every bite. Furthermore, I can stop at two pieces. Ice cream is rarely ever on my tastebuds’ radar screen. Never again will I devour an entire container of Breyer’s natural vanilla in one sitting. As for pastries, well, I can have the tiniest sliver of pie or cheesecake on a special occasion and be totally satisfied. There will never be anyone quite like my Mom when it comes to baking. She passed away over three years ago. I miss her more than I can say. Imagine my Dad’s surprise when my friends approached him at Mom’s memorial service. So many of them related stories of eating the incredible food which I shared with them over the years. My Dad ate that up. It made for a fitting and unexpected ending to a small part of my journey. Because of undertaking this personal challenge, I more fully understand my capabilities. I believe that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything! I had to do this for myself and by myself. I acknowledge that not everyone can go “cold turkey” and be successful. As I have previously stated, I don’t suggest that anyone attempt a major change by themselves. Support is crucial. Give your very best effort and that helping hand will lift you when you feel weak. So, don’t be afraid to take a break of your own. I have a good feeling that time away will do wonders for you. “Out of sight” doesn’t guarantee that something will be “out of mind”. However, putting distance between yourself and your past problems is a great way for a new beginning. I am grateful for endless second chances!