There have been a few watershed moments in my life over the last few years. Some of them I’ve very much seen coming and have actively worked to achieve – however others have been less predictable and maybe because of that have been infinitely more significant.
I knew (at least after a while of proving to myself by giving up alcohol and losing weight) that I’d get to target.
I became single minded enough for this to be a foregone conclusion.
The only question left unanswered to me was the one of how long it would take.
I expected to reach my goal.
What happened when I reached that was totally unexpected. My success with Slimming World and the awards I subsequently won came completely out of the blue.
Once they’d happened in many ways my certainty evaporated and I tried to make sense continually of what it all meant. After much (over) deliberation I thought that I knew how they would impact me.
I expected to be more visible in marketing campaigns for SW. I hoped it would enable new career opportunities and I fully embraced anything of this nature when the opportunities arose.
There was no sudden cataclysmic ‘bang’ however.
I had a trophy and a title – but I was still me.
That ‘me’ as many readers will know is someone with a lot of baggage.
I wasn’t really prepared for what it all meant emotionally and how much I’d look upon it as a ‘weight of responsibility’ in the coming months.
It started to unravel a little in my mind fairly quickly if I’m honest – and after a particularly awful week of wondering ‘what it all meant’ on top of ‘where I should go next in life’ at the start of August 2018 (a little over two weeks after a press call at the Ritz in London) I found myself significantly outside of my target weight.
I couldn’t face my Slimming World group that Saturday morning, and instead I decided to go for a day trip to somewhere I’d never been to before and get some exercise.
If I couldn’t face the scales at least I could do something to help shake off my gain.
That walk on the 4th August last year turned into a random conversation with a Geography teacher on the top of Cheddar Gorge and it changed everything.
It couldn’t have happened without all of the other changes in my life – and even then – if not for a random convergence of circumstances it may never have happened at all.
If I hadn’t won the award I’d have never felt the added pressure and I may have attended my group instead.
If the sun hadn’t been forecast I may have stayed at home.
If I hadn’t had a second cup of coffee in Starbucks at the motorway services my life would have probably taken a different course,
As the chance decisions stacked up on my side, elsewhere on a camp site someone else had woken up in a camper van and was making her way slowly to the same spot that I was.
She was trying to make her own decisions in life and was also wandering and contemplating.
We consequently met on the top of a hill in the middle of the countryside doing something we both loved to do and just started talking.
We didn’t say much at first – and it was only the briefest of encounters – but it was enough to plant a seed.
That took a while to germinate but when it did it grew virulently and has taken root in every aspect of our lives.
I worried for some time about who I would be if I was no longer losing weight.
It’s all very well to say you’ve lost over 20st. It’s not easy to do, and consequently there are few that can lay claim to such a statement.
Sadly there are fewer still who can say it’s gone for good but if you can say these things should they define you?
Did I really want this accomplishment to be sole focus of who I was?
For a time it felt (through necessity) that it had to be that way. If I hadn’t made losing weight the fulcrum of my existence it may never have come to fruition.
I never wanted it to be all I was though and as I got closer to my goal I became increasingly concerned that this was what I’d unwittingly engineered.
Would I ever be able to disengage from what I’d done?
I have an uneasy relationship with my accomplishments relating to weight and fitness because whilst they represent proof of what I can do if I put my mind to it they also represented failure.
That might sound crazy to many – but think on this.
It’s impossible to have achieved such a milestone in life without first flushing everything away so epically in the first place.
I destroyed myself so diligently that by January 2016 I stood on the verge of death.
I was unable to care for myself and in comparison to everyone I’d ever known I was drunken a 35 stone disgrace.
When your ‘success’ is based on your ability to simply begin to do what everyone else around you has already done for the vast majority of their lives how can you not feel shame every time someone pats you on the back and calls you inspirational?
I was only too aware that what I’d done was reset my personal clock to zero.
In life terms I was now where I always should have been.
I was fit and healthy – but now also middle aged, single, unsure what to do with my future, and behind the curve in almost every measure of my life.
Externally I was suddenly a success, but internally…
What was I left with?
What would happiness be?
Where would I find it?
In many ways this angst was the real gift that I received when I hit target and won my awards – but whilst it could have destroyed me, instead it propelled me.
I wanted more.
I wanted to feel the world and the life I’d missed out on during all those years of self destruction.
I wanted to say yes to all the possibilities that I’d said ‘no thank you’ to before – so I did.
In doing so something special happened.
Now I’m just days away from the next step in my journey because in just over a week my home becomes mine and my partner’s home.
‘Mine’ will be ours.
It’s been a stressful road to get to where we are now though – and at the moment I’m sitting in a flat full of boxes after a lengthy few days of packing, meeting family, DIY and boiler installations.
Her life is packed and almost ready to go.
She’s upended all of it to take a chance on me and move to Warwick and as I look around words fail me.
I had no idea how I’d ever step away from my losses and live a normal life (if such a thing exists) yet here I am.
I’m surrounded by someone else’s life in crates – packed solely because she needs me as much as I need her, and because neither of our lives make sense any more when we’re apart.
The crazy thing is though that while these contain possessions of a life the same length as my own I’m confident that much of it fills a mental space that’s similar to the ones back where I live in Warwick.
I’d push them all off a cliff tomorrow without hesitation if I had to make a choice between having this person in my life and not having her.
I know she feels the same – and it lifts my soul.
Her life is contained in these boxes – and she’s turned the rest of it upside down for us.
She’s telling me with everything she is and owns what she wants.
It makes me want to go back to the hillside on which I met her and shout aloud to the world how happy I am to be alive how lucky I feel.
This was my true gift to myself back in January 2016 I began to care about myself once more.
Inexplicably, and against all expectations I started to crawl out of the pit I’d dug for myself.
Now I’m here.
Now we’re here.
Life is beginning anew and I feel joyous.
Surrounded by boxes.