It was painful to watch her try to walk; albeit not as painful for me as it was for her.
“Sit down,” I suggested, pulling up a chair, wanting to relieve her of her burden.
She stared at it, shakily supporting herself with her metal cane, the type with four rubber-capped legs that stands on its own. “Do you have a chair without arms?” She asked, referencing her size with a flick of her bulky arm. “It’s hard for me to fit in this type of chair.”
I scurried away and returned with the requested model, placing it behind her. She sluggishly lowered her heaviness on to the seat, all the while leaning weightily on the cane for support. After placing herself, she exhaled a strained sigh of exhaustion, took a moment to regain her composure, and said, “Hi, I’m Sheila. I need to lose weight. I can’t live like this anymore.”
I’m always interested in what triggers us to finally take action. After all, weight doesn’t come on overnight. We fight it for years, constructing excuses, living in denial; until eventually we cross a line that drives us from needing to do something to actually doing it. It’s at that nexus where I enter the scene.
“What brought you here today?” I asked.
“I can’t get my mail.”
“Tell me more,” I said, looking for clarification.
She exhaled again, attempting to catch her breath. “My mailbox is at the end of the driveway, which is up a hill.” She rested. “Well, it’s not really a hill, it’s more of an incline, but I can’t walk that far anymore. I needed someone to bring me the mail yesterday.” Another deep exhalation escaped her lips as she steadied herself on her cane, relying on it to steady herself while sitting. “That’s no way to live. I have to do something.”
That was how we met.
Unfortunately, after a few months, she got a new job and moved away. We lost contact.
Not long ago, she resurfaced, visiting family in town. I did not recognize her.
“You look fantastic!” I exclaimed, upon realizing who she was.
“I’m down 163 pounds – and I walk every day.”
I realized the familiar aluminum cane was missing.
“That’s great. How far?”
She chuckled. “Over 160 telephone poles.”
“Telephone poles?” I asked. “That’s an odd way to measure distance.”
“I didn’t start out that way. You see, once I started to lose weight, I decided I needed to set some activity goals. My first one was to get my own mail. Anyone else would have thought that was no big deal. However, to me, it really meant something. I really wanted to be independent again.”
“In the beginning, it was embarrassingly difficult — but I got there, huffing and puffing. Then, one day, while at the mailbox, I wanted to go farther. I was afraid to venture too far down the road — you know, in case I couldn’t get back. There’s a telephone pole about a hundred yards down my street. That became my goal.”
“After I felt comfortable with that distance, I added another, and another, and another. Soon I looked down the road to the next telephone pole, then the next. After awhile, it became a symbol. I wanted to see how many I could go.”
She paused, not to catch her breath; instead to smile. “Yesterday, it was 167. By the time I reach my right weight, it will be 200.”
“How far is that?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she answered, “but it’s a heck of a lot farther than it was when I began, isn’t it?”