Coming Clean

One woman’s honest quest to clean up her unhealthy life for herself and her family.

Experience Life Magazine

Embrace the Fool

In a recent journal entry, I wrote about how I saw myself now. It was a list of words that I thought others would use to describe me: quirky, silly, goofy, funny, kind, loving, generous, thoughtful, off-beat, fun, flirty, comical, happy, and playful all made the cut.

The underlying theme, it seemed, was that I’m OK being a bit weird, and I assume others see me that way as well. Naturally, when we first meet, I hope they think, gee whiz, she seems nice and smart and friendly. But when they get to know my humor, they see I welcome comedy. (Laughter: Also good for my health!) One point of proof:

One of my favorite movies is just ridiculous, but makes me laugh every time I see it (and yes, I’ve watched it more than once). It’s called Teen Witch, and it’s so weird and funny and perfectly ’80s. I used to question why I liked it, but one day in college, while working at the student newspaper, I found a kindred spirit by way of this movie. I don’t know how the conversation started, but I concluded with “top that,” the name of a song from a scene where the lead character’s best friend starts rapping. My kindred spirit responded, “stop that,” and a spontaneous reenactment ensued. It was a great moment of connection, and made us realize that we were destined to be close. (If you’ve seen and loved this movie’s charm, you are immediately being added to my inner circle.)

I wasn’t always as open to being the odd one, especially as a teenager and I desperately wanted to be cool, whatever the current definition of cool was. I surely made my share of mistakes. (Falling up the stairs in front of my sophomore-year crush stands out. At least he noticed me as he was laughing. Sigh.)

Being willing to look foolish at times has, I truly feel, been an asset. It’s not that a purposely aim to act silly, but if I do something unusual and people tell me so, I’m much less likely to feel embarrassed. Oh, well, I think. What’s weird to one person is completely normal to another.

When I first started working out at 221 pounds, doing exercises outside of my comfort zone made me nervous. I didn’t want to look weak or incapable; I had fleeting thoughts of people judging me as the sad fat girl who doesn’t belong. But usually when I met eyes with the occasional onlooker, they smiled sweetly. They weren’t judging, it seemed, but rather acknowledging that we were both working toward a goal. I felt kindness from fellow club members and trainers and management: I was showing up and making the effort, and that seemed to matter most.

Even though I feel more comfortable in the gym these days, I still come across exercises or classes that throw me. I used to love going to Zumba, but have shied away because I struggled with the steps — who cares if I can’t master the moves right away? Everyone needs to practice, after all, and someday I may wonder why I didn’t make more of an effort sooner.

Being a ham in Lutsen, Minn. (Feb. 2012).

Being a ham in Lutsen, Minn. (Feb. 2012).

I can say this with certainty: Nearly every time I’ve put my ego aside and tried something new or different, I haven’t regretted it. If I didn’t like it, at least I could say I tried it and it wasn’t for me. But more often than not, breaking free from my comfort zone has yielded success. New and at-first-awkward exercises have made me stronger; experiments with new vegetables and recipes have been valuable lessons in kitchen creativity.* A few food misses made it to the compost pile, some muscles were sore longer than usual, but even those results led me to a better routine or preferred ingredient swap.

Those times you think you’ll look foolish? Don’t think twice. Try it, learn from it, and maybe you’ll discover something new that you will love. Or maybe your “odd” find will lead you to a new great friend.

*With anything new, keep in mind your limits, especially if there’s a chance of injury (a good trainer or spotter is recommended). And if you’re a novice in the kitchen, know the basics and keep a list of food-safety tips handy.