Sunday, May 8, 2016

Hishtadlut has been a long time since I last wrote!  It seems I completely missed writing about Pesach this year--and actually missed the entire month of April--due to G.L.C (General Life Craziness). What can I say?  It happens.  Good thing Pesach Sheni is around the corner!

But lest you think that I've been slacking off, I'm going to tell you a bit about what I've been doing, and I'm going to be a bit more specific than in past posts because I feel like there's no way to tell this story otherwise.

First, the background:  I was an active kid who played several different sports during grade school, but once I got to college, exercise morphed into something completely unhealthy.  Like, I actually can't think of one way in which the benefits outweighed the enormous cost to me physically and mentally. When I started working on recovery, I had to quit exercising completely, and I stayed away from it for probably around three years before I tried it again.  It did not go well.  So, for the past 6 or so years, I've abstained from "purposeful exercise" (that is, exercise done for the purpose of exercising), and have relied solely on "incidental exercise" (such as walking to and from places, etc).

But this past year, I started to feel deeply an intense desire to try exercising again, but the wanting felt different to me--I didn't want to exercise to lose weight or burn calories; instead, I wanted to feel stronger and healthier in my body.  I wanted to feel like my body was powerful.  My team and I talked about how I would do it differently this time around:  no numbers, no pushing for a certain time, no using any technology to record distance, heart rate, or calories burned. I wouldn't do it every day. I would not force myself to exercise outside in bad weather.  No gyms.  I wouldn't make myself eat less on days when I did not exercise.  And on and on.  Finally, we agreed on a plan. The only remaining obstacle was, I needed to gain some weight.

Not a lot of weight, but enough to give myself a cushion and to support my body in being more active, and also to help me stay recovery-focused mentally. Objectively, it seemed like something I should have been able to accomplish in a little over a month.  After all, I'm in solid recovery. I knew why I needed to gain weight, and I was in favor of it.  I had a goal that I really wanted to reach.  How hard could this be?


What I predicted would take me two months ended up taking four, and not because I wasn't trying.  I tried really, really hard.  For anyone who has ever had to gain weight, you know what it's like--eating past the point of fullness, eating when your'e not hungry, etc.  It's completely unpleasant.  But what's even MORE unpleasant is doing all those things, and then getting weighed and hearing, "Your weight is stable." For a while, I heard this nearly every week, and let me tell you, there was a lot of crying involved.  A lot of crying, a lot of frustration, and a lot of fear. I was already doing everything I could do. What if I just wasn't able to reach this goal?  What if it never happened for me?

When I first set my goal, I shared it with a good friend, someone who I knew would support me but also wouldn't ask me about it unless I brought it up first (if you don't have one, find yourself a friend like this).  One day, after a particularly disappointing doctor's appointment, I called this friend and shared with her my frustration and my fear.  She listened and gave encouragement, and then said, "You know, hishtadlut."

I said, "What's that?"

She explained that hishtadlut means putting in maximum effort and not giving up until you reach your goal.  I looked it up after our conversation and found that even when a person thinks that all the hishtadlut in the world won't achieve his or her goal, that person is still obligated to try.  In other words, pessimism is allowed, but giving up is not.

Sometimes, when I'm in the headspace of, "This feels IMPOSSIBLE," hearing someone say, "Just keep trying," feels invalidating.  But when my friend explained the meaning of hishtadlut, it felt different, I think because it felt like my problem was common enough that there was an actual name for how to handle it.  And the more I thought about hishtadlut, the more I realized that I really had only two options:  quit, or push ahead.  If I continued to put in all my effort, I had a chance at reaching my goal.  But if I gave up, there was no way it was happening.  So what else could I do, really, but keep trying?

And here's the thing:  it worked.

I met my goal.  Today was my first day of exercising, and it felt great--physically, but also mentally, because I knew I had worked really hard for this.  It was hishtadlut that got me there.

Whatever your recovery goals, know that sometimes the only way is the long way...but maximum effort does pay off.  It's not magic--it's something anyone can do.  But there's no giving up.  You deserve to feel the satisfaction and elation that comes with reaching your goal, so stick with hishtadlut--that's what will get you there.