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by Christine Smith
January 27, 2016.
The fateful day I refer to (as of this exact moment) as “The Awakening.” This day marked the beginning of a new stage of my transformation that’s occurring still, every day. January 27, 2016, was my first day with November Project Milwaukee (referred to hereafter as NP).
It’s easy to be cranky at the butt crack of dawn. It’s human. If I didn’t have something special waiting for me, I’d stay in bed. But I do have something special--a band of spray-paint clad hooligans, packaged in a big ball of kindness. A no-return-policy, lost-my-receipt-type of gift that I’m stuck with and sticking with until it ends up in some antique shop or in my will, to be passed on to my grandkids. I hope I can pass on this gift. Paying NP forward is my only option because I certainly can’t pay them back.
As some background (with more in-depth reflections of my ongoing journey here), I struggled with an eating disorder during the summer and fall of 2013 and was weight-restored by the end of the following summer. I had spent so much time controlling and micromanaging everything I did and ate, I had (and have) a difficult time not being self-critical. Even to this day, I remind myself constantly to keep my expectations in perspective and am still relearning how to be kind to myself when I don’t meet my goals.
January 27, 2016, saw me in a very different place from where I am now. I was coasting on a feigned happiness that was dependent on whether I had worked out that day and whether I felt worthy of being seen. I was physically recovered but fighting through an exercise compulsion that pushed me away from group exercise out of fear of judgment.
My love was not immediate. I did know that I had found something that other people seemed to love, so I decided to keep showing up (#justshowup) until I felt like I belonged. My own self-criticism became the barrier between my January state and my current one. But once I was open to accept the love I thought I deserved (perks?), I couldn’t contain it.
My cup overfloweth.
The human pain threshold is too high. We all carry brokenness strapped to our backs, but we hide it under our shirts and don’t take it off when we sit down. It’s no wonder why interacting with people can be so uncomfortable.
But NP has a way of walking up boldly and saying “I see you have a huge lump under your shirt. No, I don’t care what’s in it, but I’d be happy to show you mine if you want to share yours. Until then, though, want to take it off and hang out?” It’s the friend in second grade that met you in the cafeteria yesterday and already invited you to a sleepover because they too like playing “don’t touch the lava.” It is unconditional, real, and raw.
Maybe I had one sip too many of the NP KoolAid and I’ve unknowingly been roped into a cult of do-gooders, but I will say NP has changed my life. I’ve learned to love working out again instead of punishing myself with it and punishing myself when I don’t do it. I’ve experienced the power of the human spirit and of love. I’ve gone through highs and lows with NP and without judgment, I’ve been given bear hugs and I’m-happy-you’re-here’s.
Please, ask me about November Project. Ask me how it’s turned my world inside-out and upside-down. NP is sticking around in my life until I can’t leave my bed. It’s the stuff of the future and it’s not going away anytime soon.
The following article appeared on guest contributor Christine Smith's blog RECOVEREDBUTNOTRELIEVED on 6 | 17 | 16 as "This Is Not an Advertisement."